USFS Volunteer Chainsaw and Crosscut Saw Certification
Trails in the National Forests require periodic maintenance. This task is
primarily handled by volunteers. In order to work as as volunteer, you must
sign a USFS Volunteer Agreement with the District(s) where you plan to work.
If you are a member of a trail organization, your organization can submit a
USFS Volunteer Agreement along with a membership list instead of individual
Although many task such as cleaning water bars and turnouts, trimming back
foliage, and tread repair are usually done on a yearly basis for a given trail, the
removal of trees that fall across the trail is an ongoing process year round.
Chainsaws are the primary tool used for this purpose except for Wilderness
areas. Wilderness trail maintenance requires that crews use only traditional
tools, so Crosscut Saws are used instead of Chainsaws.
In order to use a Chainsaw or Crosscut Saw on National Forest lands, in
addition to the Volunteer Agreement you must be certified as a USFS Sawyer
by attending a certification class. In order to attend the certification class and
receive your Sawyer Card, you must show proof that you have a current
CPR/First Aid Class issued by a nationally recognized organization. (Red
Cross, ASHI, Hospital, Paramedic, etc.) A USFS Volunteer is considered a
Forest Service employee while performing trail work when they have met these
requirements and are eligible for Worksman’s Compensation.
The Sawyer certification class is the Chainsaw and Crosscut Saw Training
Course developed by the USFS Missoula Technology and Development
Center. (MTDC) Although Chainsaw training and Crosscut Saw training are
different classes, the Student Guide for these classes is in the same document.
SAWYER CERTIFICATION LEVELS
Apprentice Sawyer - “A” Sawyers have completed the nationally approved
classroom and field training for general saw work (such as bucking, limbing,
and the first basic steps in felling) or specialized uses. (such as construction,
maintenance, and fencing) Generally they are trained at the local unit and
must be supervised by a B or C level Sawyer during saw work activity, which
may include slashing and felling in the least complex situations. During
certification, the certifier has the authority to impose restrictions on Apprentice
Sawyers as deemed necessary based on the skills demonstrated.
Intermediate Sawyer - “B” Sawyers are skilled saw operators capable of
performing saw tasks as specified on their certification card without
Supervision. Intermediate Sawyers are not permitted to certify other Sawyers.
The certifier has the authority to impose restrictions on Intermediate Sawyers
as deemed necessary based on the skills demonstrated.
Advanced Sawyer - “C” Sawyers are approved to handle complex sawing
and felling operations, include fire line construction. They are qualified to
conduct classroom and field training at the A and B level. They are not
alowed to certify at the C level.
C Sawyer Certifiers - “C Certifiers” are Advanced Sawyers who have been
further trained through a formal Regional Saw Program to organize and
conduct field certification sessions. They have demonstrated communication
skills, the ability to transfer and relate concepts to others and current
knowledge of policy and regulations pertaining to saws and related
All saw certifications expire three (3) years from the date of issue.
Once certified, a sawyer must utilize the proper Personal Protective Equiment
(PPE) when using a saw. Depending on whether the user is utilizing a
Chainsaw or Crosscut Saw, this includes a Forest Service approved hardhat,
eye protection, hearing protection, leather gloves, long-sleeved shirt,
Chainsaw chaps, and 8” water repellent or waterproof boots. In addition to
the appropriate PPE, some general equipment is recommended as well, such
as as a Type IV First Aid Kit, Chainsaw wrench, filing tools, fuel safety
container, oil container, appropriate wedges, a single or double bit axe and a
maul. (3-5 lbs)
“Gentle on the Land”