Sawyers remove hazard trees with traditional tools, skills

By: Carol Lagodich and Paul Robbins Jr.

 

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JUNEAU, Alaska – The magnificence and scenic beauty of wilderness landscapes is one of the most defining features of the Tongass National Forest. Nineteen Wilderness areas comprise approximately 5,756,000 acres, nearly one third of the world’s largest temperate rainforest.

Motorized equipment and chain saw use is banned in these areas due to the value of these intact ecosystems, meaning the work of felling hazardous trees in these areas requires the skills and tools of a traditional sawyer.

In April, the Tongass NF sponsored a two-week training course to teach traditional sawyer skills. The first week covered basic crosscut and axe skills, and meeting the standards of the new National Saw Policy. Fifteen people, mostly Forest Service employees and a pair from the non-profit group Trail mix, received cross-cut saw certifications at all levels.

“The ax shaping and hanging portion of the workshop offered a rare opportunity to elevate our axemanship skills on the Tongass,” said Zach Holder, cabins and trails technician for the Admiralty National Monument Wilderness. 

Robert Marek 2 WebStudents of a two-week workshop stand on spring boards as they fell a hazard tree using traditional tools and techniques. The training is designed to certify sawyers in traditional tools and skills, in order to support hazard tree removal in wilderness areas. Photo by Robert Marek.

The second week involved a smaller group, six students, and covered complex hazard tree removal in the at Admiralty Cove cabin. Six trees that were leaning over a cabin were removed by the training participants, using the advanced skills taught by the instructors. Practicing spring board use, rigging and other traditional techniques in realistic scenarios helped each sawyer raise their capabilities, according to Holder, one of the course’s organizers.

It had been five years since the last traditional skills workshop had been offered on the Tongass NF, and the sawyers were grateful for the opportunity. Working and learning alongside peers in the wilderness was a positive experience for everyone.

“We face many of the same challenges and seeing different techniques for working through those challenges is always helpful,” said Karisa Garner, a wilderness ranger on the Petersburg Ranger District of the Tongass NF.

People with the skills to use traditional tools and apply traditional sawyer techniques are rare today. But thanks to this recent training, southeast Alaska brags more than a dozen capable sawyers to help maintain the vitality of what many consider the nation’s most pristine wilderness.





https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/tongass/home/?cid=FSEPRD542350