Only Traditional Tools are allowed for trail maintenance on National Forest System Trails within federally designated Wilderness Areas.
What is a federally designated Wilderness area?
Although some people see a forest as wilderness, the definition of federal wilderness is specific. The Wilderness Act of 1964 defines it as “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” The Act’s purpose is to preserve and protect the natural ecosystems and wild areas and also provide opportunities for solitude and retrospective or primitive recreation.
Wilderness areas are valuable for the historical, scientific, educational, geologic and ecological benefits. They help the environment and the economy.
But perhaps one of the greatest benefits is what wilderness areas can do for a person. For those who travel into wilderness areas the experience can be awe inspiring and life changing. Those treks are what made great novels and critically acclaimed essays. Many who venture onto wilderness areas come back out changed with a deeper understanding of why these lands are set aside. Each person has their own story.
Today, there are 803 wilderness areas covering more than 111 million acres that are part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, which is managed by the Forest Service and three other federal land management. From the 5.5-acre Pelican Island Wilderness in Northern Florida to the 9 million-acre Wrangell-Saint Elias Wilderness in Alaska, each help shape personal stories.
Source cited: https://www.fs.usda.gov/managing-land/wilderness/wilderness-stories What are Traditional Tools? Non-motorized, human-powered tools such as an ax, crosscut saw, folding saws, loppers and hand pruners.
Why can't we use mechanized, gas and/or battery powered tools in federally designated Wilderness areas? This speaks to several things.
The undeveloped quality of wilderness.
One's opportunity for solitude and quiet.
To protect the soundscape for wildlife that are nesting or using Wilderness areas for homes and/or migrating corridors.
It is significantly cheaper than paying the average price per gallon of gas in 2022.
It is lighter weight than carrying a chain saw several miles into a Wilderness area.
It builds team work and comradery amongst trail maintainers.
It is strong, physical work that can tone muscles you didn't know you had.
Wild Alabama offers Traditional Tools trainings 2-3 times per year for volunteers working on Wilderness areas in National Forests in Alabama. This includes Wild Alabama, Backcountry Horsemen, Pinhoti Trail Maintainers, Alabama Hiking Trail Society, Sipsey Wilderness Hiking club and any other partner organization that actively stewards Wilderness areas in Alabama. We hope to increase our reach in the future but for now we will instruct and recertify sawyers within the state of Alabama. Are you outside of Alabama and interested in traditional tools training? SAWS (Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards) has a program as well. Check out their program HERE.
Interested in becoming a Traditional Tools official card holder? What will be your commitment?
After completion of training, participate in at least 4-5 trail maintenance days per year that involve traditional tools whether it be with Wild Alabama or other partner organizations in Alabama.
You must obtain and carry a current level of medical training that would be at least first aid/CPR but we prefer Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder. We do not offer these courses but we can connect you to organizations that do. At times we receive grants or private donations to help offset the cost of the basic first aid training. Interested in helping? DONATE HERE Make sure you specify that you are donating to the First Aid fund for traditional tools training.
You do not have to commit to working with Wild Alabama after completing the training but you do need to commit to working with a partner group in our state that has a volunteer agreement with the National Forests in Alabama to perform this task within their respective forests. We can guide you through this process. Any person or person(s) found operating within a wilderness without the proper agreements with the local unit will not receive further training through Wild Alabama.
What will you walk away with?
A certification as either an "A" apprentice sawyer or "B" sawyer (able to operate a saw in most moderately complex cutting situations). The majority of new sawyers complete their first course as an "A" sawyer unless a high level of proficiency is demonstrated. This can certainly be accomplished by attending work days prior to training and doing a great deal of "homework" and pre-learning. Although, the course does not guarantee that you will walk away with either of these certifications but it is rare that would happen. If one is blatantly disregarding safety or dismissing constructive feedback from instructors or assistants, they could be asked to leave and obtain no certificate at all.
A sound knowledge of how to operate, safely, a crosscut saw, ax and all other tools necessary to clear a trail obstruction within a federally designated Wilderness area that is consistent with the Trail Management Objective (TMO) prescribed for that trail.
Support from a team of Traditional Tools enthusiasts that have been practicing this dying art for over a decade.
What is the cost?
The training is free for all volunteers working within wilderness areas in Alabama.
It might cost you gas and personal time but the benefit is never ending. Did you know that one hour of volunteer time holds a value of $29.95 to the local community?
Other facts you need to know...
Trail maintenance involving traditional tools is on hold for the summer, too hot and our saws are off getting their mani/pedi's. Work days will resume in September.
Certifications are valid for three years.
If you are a partner group that wants to add traditional tools to your repetoire of stewardship activites and you do not possess these types of tools, we can connect you with people that sell, sharpen and maintain them.
Interested in beginning your journey as an official and carded crosscut sawyer? Email Kim Waites today to be notified of work days, training weekends and other opportunities.