By Bob Proudman and Beth Critton
Since the early 1990s, hundreds of A.T. maintainers have been certified or recertified to operate chainsaws and crosscut saws. ATC’s safety training program originated with our partners in the Forest Service, using the curriculum and certification program designed for their employees. The National Park Service joined the partnership in 1998, and we recently signed our fourth successive, five-year Memorandum of Understanding
committing the three parties to providing a uniform training program from Georgia to Maine.
The joint training program has been expanded to include all sawyers, volunteer and paid staff, who work on the Appalachian Trail. Training and certification sessions are provided at no cost to A.T. sawyers in all A.T. regions by expert ATC contractors and by agency trainers (see http://appalachiantrail.org/what-we-do/trail-management-support/volunteer_toolkit/training-workshops
). Sawyer certifications are valid for three years. Sawyers also must have current first-aid and CPR certifications for their sawyer certifications to be valid.
While the certification requirement was initially controversial, clubs and volunteers have come to understand the importance of training, practice, and understanding the sometimes complex and hidden hazards of saw work. As a result, no accidents or injuries among A.T. sawyers have been reported in more than 20 years.
The future promises more exciting developments, including a proposed new Forest Service Saw Training Directive that will allow the possibility for highly skilled volunteers to advance into the instructor-certifier role (already in effect on the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail). Simplified techniques for hazard-tree management are on the horizon as well.
This old saw (Bob Proudman) is writing from Kentucky at the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area where the Forest Service is hosting its annual gathering of Southern and Eastern Region saw trainers: more than 50 world-class experts. ATC would like to give a big shout-out to Regional Saw Training Coordinator Dan Peterson from the Forest Service and to each of the sawyer trainers from our national forests to say thank you for the years of support, guidance, and expertise.
Beth Critton is Chair of the Stewardship Council
Bob Proudman is Director of Conservation Operations
Many workshops of interest to A.T. maintainers and other volunteers will be offered at ATC's 40th biennial conference. There will be plenty of opportunities to network with other volunteers and Trail enthusiasts, pick up tips, and enjoy the camaraderie of like-minded people.
Prospective and seasoned trail workers alike will find offerings ranging from trail maintenance for newbies
to sustainable trail building and maintenance, from basic chainsaw maintenance to an edged tool workshop. There will be workshops on backcountry sanitation, planning for universal design, corridor and compass training, wilderness first aid, and invasive species monitoring and management.
For current or prospective Trail club leaders, there are sessions on A.T. cooperative management, recruiting volunteers, recreation liability, and using Facebook and club newsletters to provide information about your club and promote membership.
Hikes, excursions, exhibits, family activities, and entertainment are scheduled throughout the week. ATC's business meeting, where a new Board of Directors will be elected and 25- and 50-year volunteers honored, will be held Saturday July 18 at 8 p.m.
Registration opens April 15, but the meeting packet and schedule are available now at http://www.cvent.com/events/2015-atc-biennial-meeting/event-summary-0469594c7ebb47138d157bb8099713f7.aspx
. Check out the offerings and register early - session sizes are limited and will fill up quickly. We look forward to seeing you in July.
There is a preponderance of certain kinds of encroachments in different parts of the Appalachian Trail corridor. In Maine, snowmobiles encroach onto the corridor in the winter, but the scarred rocks and eroded stream banks that surface the following summer reveal little about their activity.
Earlier this month, ATC’s Claire Polfus got into the field—on skis—to monitor three known snowmobile encroachments. “I wanted to get a better idea of the use pattern, which is impossible to see in the summer.”
Addressing snowmobile encroachments is important to the health of the A.T. corridor. The noise and activity of snowmobiles disturb wintering wildlife. Heavy use can even displace wildlife. While the spring melt may hide their tracks, other evidence of snowmobile activity lingers. Compacted snow hinders vegetative growth. Where there is little snow, snowmobiles’ passage increases erosion and injures plants. Recreational two-stroke vehicles like snowmobiles produce significantly more carbon monoxide and unburnt hydrocarbons than automobiles. Their exhaust degrades air and water quality. So it’s important that corridor monitors maintain their vigilance in the winter to keep snowmobiles limited to legal crossings of the A.T.
Snowmobile encroachments are dealt with similarly to their warm weather relatives—
ATV encroachments. In addition to reporting the encroachment, ensure that the corridor boundary where it encroaches is signed well. Follow the entire trail. Consider brushing it in at key junctions. Monitor it. Track the frequency that the trail is reopened, or the frequency that the trail is used. Talk to the neighbors. Sometimes mitigating an off-road vehicle encroachment is as simple as informing a neighboring landowner that motorized vehicular activity is prohibited on the A.T. corridor or working with them to block off corridor access from their property.
Land Protection Associate
ATC New England Regional Office