WASHINGTON D.C. - The U.S. Forest Service has finalized a policy that it says will provide nationally consistent training, evaluation and certification requirements for the use of chain saws and crosscut saws on National Forest System lands.

Under the new national directive:

  • Current sawyer certifications will remain valid until they expire.
  • Cooperators have one year, until July 19, 2017, to meet the new requirements.
  •  Sawyers must comply with U.S. Department of Labor minimum age requirements, which limit use of chainsaws to those who are at least 18 years of age and use of crosscut saws to those who are at least 16 years of age.
  • Partner organizations, like the Pacific Crest Trail Association and the Back Country Horsemen of America, may develop their own training and certification programs that meet the requirements in the final directive.

Like Forest Service and other governmental employees, cooperators, volunteers and training consultants, Forest Service contractors are subject to applicable federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements governing the use of saws. However, contractors are not subject to the final saw directive because the Agency does not believe it is necessary or appropriate to track their training and certification as sawyers given their role and responsibilities as federal contractors.

“This policy ensures that our employees, our volunteers and our partners will consistently have the best knowledge available and, in the end, be safer when using saws in National Forests,” said Leslie Weldon, deputy chief for the Forest Service’s National Forest System. “The change also means that if sawyers are certified in one region, they are eligible to work in any of our regions.”

The Forest Service says that since the 1970s, its nine regions have developed regional policies on the use of chain saws and crosscut saws. Sawyers covered by those policies often maintained trails on national forests and grasslands, helped fight wildfires and worked in wilderness areas where cross cut saws are required. Employees, cooperators and volunteers who worked in more than one region had to comply with multiple regional policies and certifications obtained in one region but not always honored in another.