Learn More

Information for A.T. Sawyers

All volunteers using a chain saw or crosscut saw on the Appalachian Trail must successfully complete a sawyer certification workshop. Follow these steps to get certified.

1. Find a workshop that meets your needs

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) strives to provide workshops that are convenient for our volunteers. Check the regional trail-skills training calendars for training & workshops.
If you are affiliated with an A.T. maintaining club and can’t find an appropriate workshop, contact your trails supervisor to discuss your specific training needs. The ATC staff schedules training only as requested by our clubs. You may also call your local ATC office to see what other certification opportunities might exist.

2. Make sure space is available

Registration deadlines are generally two weeks before the course date. A.T. volunteers are given first priority for workshop space. Other club volunteers are given second priority. Non-A.T. maintainers are included as space allows and may be placed on a waiting list until after the registration deadline has passed. Non-A.T. maintainers attending workshops sponsored by ATC will be charged a course fee of $130.  (See the application form below for details.)

3. Print, complete, and return the workshop application

Sawyer Certification Workshop Application (July 2014)

This is very important! Returning your application form reserves your place on the roster, ensures we have your complete contact information, and helps the instructor know more about his or her audience.

4. Review preliminary course packet

The course materials and forms are posted below. About a week before the course, you will receive additional information and materials, including directions to the site. Before the workshop, please review the course book developed by the USDA Forest Service: Chain Saw and Crosscut Saw Training Course: A Student Guidebook.

Chain Saw and Crosscut Saw Training Course Handbook

ATC Sawyer PPE order Form (July 2014)

First Aid-CPR Reimbursement Form(July 2014)

5. Attend the course and get certified!

Following successful completion of the workshop, you will receive a letter that explains your certification, your certification card, a certificate, and some recognition items.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is sawyer certification required for A.T. volunteers?
Certification is required of federal employees operating chain saws or cross-cut saws on the Appalachian Trail. Volunteers working on the Trail are considered government employees for the purposes of medical and tort claims under the Volunteers-in-Forests (VIF) and Volunteers-in-Parks (VIP) agreements between maintaining clubs and their agency partners.

What policies guide the ATC’s sawyer training program?
The Memorandum of Understanding signed by the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, and ATC is the guiding document. In 2003, ATC’s Board passed the Chain-saw and Crosscut Saw Training and Certification Policy to endorse those federal agencies’ safety programs to protect volunteers and employees working on the Appalachian Trail.

What is an A.T. sawyer?
A member or affiliate of an A.T. maintaining club who uses a chain saw or crosscut saw on the A.T. at least twice per year is considered an A.T. sawyer. An A.T. sawyer may be an officially designated maintainer of a section of the Trail or an A.T. side trail or may participate in club work trips.

What is the “textbook” for the ATC’s sawyer training courses?
The U.S. Forest Service’s Missoula Technology & Development Center’s (MTDC) Chain Saw and Crosscut Saw Training Course Student Guidebook serves as the program’s curriculum.

How can I find a course?
Contact your ATC regional office. Before registering for a course, check with the contact person listed to make sure space is available.

How do I register for a course?
Preregistration is required. After confirming that space is available, complete and return the course application form (also available from your ATC regional office).

What if there are no courses scheduled in my area?
If you are a member of an A.T.-maintaining club, contact your trail supervisor or club president and ask if a course may be arranged. If you are not a club member, contact your regional the ATC office to see if future courses may be offered.

How long is the course?
Courses may range from 12 hours to 24 hours in length, depending on the instructor. Courses include both classroom and field instruction and hands-on opportunities to use a saw. Depending on the needs of the attendees and the instructors’ availability, courses may be held on a weekend or during the week and may combine day and night sessions.

What does the course cover?
The course covers the following topics:

  • A job-hazard analysis to identify the hazards associated with the task, abatement actions that can eliminate or reduce hazards, and first-aid supplies and emergency evacuation procedures
  • A discussion of personal protective equipment (PPE) required for saw operation
  • Situational awareness
  • A hands-on demonstration of chain-saw or crosscut saw use and maintenance
  • A discussion of common chain-saw or crosscut saw tasks and techniques, including bucking, limbing, and felling.
  • Hands-on opportunities to practice the above techniques

Who teaches the courses?
The courses are taught by certified instructors who are highly skilled and experienced sawyers. The instructors may be government employees (U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, or state agency) or private contractors hired by the ATC.

Who can take the courses?
A.T. sawyers are given priority for certification courses. Others may be allowed to participate if space is available. At least 60 percent of the participants must be A.T. sawyers for courses taught by the ATC contract instructors.

Is there a fee for the course?
Sawyer training courses are offered at no charge to A.T. sawyers (see definition above). Donations are welcome and will be used for the sawyer certification program.

For courses taught by ATC contract instructors, non-A.T. sawyers are charged a $130 course fee, payable in advance, to cover materials and instruction. A refund will be issued if the course is canceled or the sawyer is unable to attend (advance notice required).

What are the certification levels?

The certification levels for A.T. sawyers are “A” for Apprentice Sawyer and “B” for Intermediate Sawyer. A “C” certification is issued only to instructors. Students who successfully complete a certification course will be sent cards indicating the level of certification achieved. The reverse side of the certification cards lists tasks the sawyer is qualified to perform.

How is the certification level determined?
The course instructor determines certification levels based upon observing a student’s proficiency with the saw during the field portion of the course. It is possible that a student may complete the course without receiving certification.

How long is the certification valid?
A certification is valid for three years from the date of issue. A sawyer must recertify before the expiration date in order to continue sawing on the A.T. A sawyer’s certification is not valid without current first-aid/CPR certification from an accredited organization (see below).

How can I be recertified?
You may be recertified by successfully completing another course at any time during the three-year certification period.

Are there shorter recertification courses available?
A one-day recertification option may be available for currently certified sawyers. Check our Training & Workshops page for courses in your area, or contact your ATC regional office for details and course availability.

Why are sawyers required to have first-aid/CPR certification?
First-aid and CPR certifications are required of government-employed sawyers by OSHA. Again, under the VIP and VIF agreements, A.T. volunteers working on the Trail are considered government employees for the purposes of medical and tort claims. First-aid and CPR certifications must be current for sawyer certification to be valid. Note that while the sawyer certifications are for three years, first-aid and CPR certifications may need to be renewed more frequently.

What type of first-aid and CPR courses are required?
The certification must be from a nationally accredited organization, such as the American Red Cross, American Heart Association, or Stonehearth Open Learning Opportunities (SOLO). There are currently no online courses that meet the requirements for the sawyer program.

Where can A.T. sawyers obtain first-aid/CPR certification?
Sawyers (and other ATC club members) may participate in an ATC or club-sponsored course or one offered by a local organization. A course may be arranged at a time and place convenient for your club. Some clubs have had members who are professional medical providers volunteer their services to teach the courses. Others have held courses at night in conjunction with sawyer training so that volunteers may obtain both their sawyer and first-aid/CPR certifications in one weekend. Regional ATC staff can work with clubs to arrange courses at convenient locations and times and may have financial assistance available to help offset course fees.

Are there other resources available online?
The USDA Forest Service Saw Operations Guide
The US Forest Service Guide for Chain Saw and Crosscut Saw Use
Complexity Wallet Card