Why do we need Volunteer Sawyers?
A major mountain pine bark beetle infestation from about 1996 to 2012 in Colorado resulted in the death of a large percentage of lodgepole pine trees in Eagle and Summit County (read more). Those trees began falling in large numbers around 2015, with many of these falling across trails in the Eagles Nest, Holy Cross, & Ptarmigan Peak Wilderness Areas.
The US Forest Service (USFS) clears many trees from the trails each year but due to the number of trees, doesn’t have the resources to clear everything. To support the trail clearing efforts, volunteers supplement USFS resources.
ESWA Volunteer Sawyer Program
ESWA has partnered with the USFS to clear trails in the Forest and Wilderness areas in Eagle and Summit County. In 2021, ESWA agreed with the USFS to continuously clear 8 trails in Summit County and 6 trails in Eagle County (trail map). In addition to this, ESWA volunteers assist the USFS to clear other trails where the USFS requests assistance.
Each of these 14 trails has a “Lead Certified Sawyer” who has adopted the trail. These leaders have the responsibility to monitor their adopted trail and coordinate a team of volunteers to clear their trail when required.
What Does it Take to Clear a Trail?
Although trees fall every day, the major fall occurs during the winter. Once the snow melts, our crews get to work. The initial clearing for each trail typically takes a full day with 3 teams of 3 people (9 total). Although anybody can be a volunteer, each team needs at least one person who is certified as a B-Bucker Sawyer by the USFS.
Most of our work is in the Wilderness areas and motorized equipment (i.e. chainsaws) are not allowed (read more). Therefore, we only use bladed saws while clearing trails. For trees less than about 12”, we use a single person saw such as the 500mm blade KatanaBoy. Larger trees require a two-person crosscut saw just like the early settlers used.
Read more about the crosscut saw in this ESWA newsletter.
How do I Get Involved?
In general, if you love the outdoors, you can help. Our volunteers come from every age group with many different capabilities.
However, keep in mind that most of our clearing activities will require you to hike 4+ miles while doing moderate work over a 4+ hour time period.
If you are interested in joining one of our day clearing activities as a volunteer or to become a certified Sawyer, simply send an email with your name, phone number, and interest level to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sawyer certification requires the completion of a first aid course, an online 8-hour Sawyer course, and two days of in-person training by a USFS Sawyer. Our next ESWA Sawyer certification course will be held on June 11th & 12th, 2022. We’ll be sending more information Spring 2022 to those who express an interest. Pictures from a sawyer training weekend are HERE.