Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance offering free sawyer training, certification program for those who wish to learn crosscut sawing technique
Thousands of trees fall across wilderness trails every year, blocking access for hikers looking to explore those areas.
When a tree falls on an ordinary trail, crews can make quick work of it using motorized chainsaws, but on wilderness trails, it’s a different story because no mechanized equipment is allowed.
In Eagle and Summit Counties, the local Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance monitors trails which have been blocked by fallen trees and sends teams out to clear the trail using two-person crosscut saws and other hand tools. Those teams cut the tree into small lengths so they can be moved off trails in a process known as “bucking.”
The alliance, in recent years, has grown its bucking program to cover many of the Eagle and Summit County wilderness trails enjoyed by hikers, but the program is often in need of new volunteers to help with the process.
That’s why this year the alliance is offering its members a free class-B bucker training program with the U.S. Forest Service for those who want to learn proper crosscut sawing techniques and help clear trails.
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The bucker certification training will be held June 9-11 in Summit County, and the alliance and the U.S. Forest Service will guide volunteers through all of the training except the first-aid course, which interested participants will need to complete on their own if they’re not already first-aid certified with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Proof of first-aid certification will be required when guests arrive at the in-person training. Those who wish to take part in the training and are not members of the Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance can join by making a minimum donation of $25 to the alliance at eaglesummitwilderness.org/join-donate.
“This training is for those who want to become certified to lead small groups of volunteers to help clear trails — or for those who have a certification that will lapse in 2023 and need to be re-certified,” according to the alliance.
Alliance member Mike Browning says those interested in wilderness history might also find the sawyer training to be of interest.
“There’s a lot of great old vintage crosscut saws out there that are much better than the new saws they make, the new steel and the new designs aren’t as good,” he said. “They don’t make them like they used to.”
The Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance has a collection of vintage saws which have been rehabilitated for current use, which will be used by those who go through the training, Browning said.
“The forest service will be instructing people on the safe use of those old saws because there can be a lot of hazards when you have several trees piled up on each other,” he said. “There can be a lot of tension in those trees — when you cut one, another can spring up and surprise people, so there’s a lot of training that the forest service requires.”
In order to be certified, volunteers will need to commit to 8 hours of free online training through the University of Montana and participate in at least three 4-6 hour summer 2023 trail clearing events, as well attend the in-person class training on June 9-10 and the field training on June 11.
For those who still want to get involved in trail clearing but don’t want to complete the sawyer program certification, the alliance also welcomes interested volunteers to participate in one of the regular trail clearing activities, with no prior experience or training necessary.
“The only criteria is that you be able to hike at least 2 miles, participate in a safe manner, and dress appropriately (long sleeves, long pants, leather gloves, appropriate footwear, and hard-hat (supplied)),” according to the alliance. “You will assist a certified sawyer who will provide guidance on how to safely clear trails.”
In Summit County, the alliance will be servicing the Lily Pad Lake area, Mesa Cortina to South Willow Falls, North Rock to Boss Mine, portions of the Gore Range Trail, North Rock Creek to Gore Range Trail to Boulder Lake, North Tenmile to Gore Range Trail Junction, Upper Salt Lick to Lily Pad Junction, Lower Cataract Lake Loop, the Maryland Creek Trail and the Royal Buffalo Trail from the Lily Pad parking area to the treeline.
In Eagle County, the alliance will be servicing the Bighorn Creek, Gore Creek, Dead Dog, East Lake Creek, Pitkin Lake and Upper Piney trails.
Last year the alliance cleared more than 1,000 trees in Eagle and Summit Counties, with volunteers working more than 1,500 hours.
To get involved, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, indicating whether you want to join as a general volunteer or to become a certified sawyer.