Photo Credit: Katie Weber

Calling All Sawyers and Swampers

Chainsaw certified volunteers – sawyers – and the volunteers who directly assist them by removing downed branches and brush – swampers – are uniquely qualified to assist the Ice Age Trail Alliance with Habitat Management events, corridor clearing, storm damage clean up, and more.

Introducing the National Chainsaw Safety Program!

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Sawyers, swampers, corridor clearing, storm damage
A team of sawyers and swampers work together to clear storm damage along the Ice Age Trail. Photo by Liz Jesse.

There’s a new process for becoming chainsaw certified – What is it?

Chainsaw training for Ice Age Trail volunteers is now officially offered by the National Park Service (NPS).

Daniel Watson, Volunteer Coordinator, National Park Service – Ice Age National Scenic Trail, is coordinating the effort to get volunteers chainsaw certified under NPS guidelines: Ice Age National Scenic Trail Chainsaw Standard Operating Procedure.

Volunteers must meet the following prerequisites prior to entry into the Chainsaw Training course; a candidate must have: 

  • An updated Volunteer Agreement on file with the NPS. Note: The Volunteer Agreement form MUST be updated/completed annually.
  • Watched the Trail Safe! video series and reported completion to Dan Watson ([email protected]).
  • A current First Aid/CPR certification (certification expires after two years). Candidates accepted into the chainsaw training program may submit First Aid/CPR certification expenses to the Alliance for reimbursement. (Please submit expense receipts to Riley Dupee, Field Operations Specialist ([email protected]).
  • Requested Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from the NPS (and have received it).
  • Completed and submitted the Chainsaw Training application.

Upon meeting prerequisites, applicants will be admitted into a two-day, in-person, hands-on chainsaw training course (dependent on approval of application).

Priority for limited classroom seating may be given to applicants who have a demonstrated history of volunteering on the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. The NPS will provide the following mandatory PPE to all sawyers: logger’s hardhat, chaps, and logger’s first aid kit.

Volunteers are responsible for boots and gloves as outlined in the Ice Age National Scenic Trail Chainsaw Standard Operating Procedure.








How was the chainsaw certification handled in the past?

Prior to 2019, Alliance volunteers received chainsaw safety orientation classes through Ice Age Trail-University (IAT-U) gatherings hosted by the Alliance.








What if I am an IAT-U certified sawyer?

If your previous IAT-U chainsaw training has not yet hit its 3-year expiration date, you may continue to operate a chainsaw provided you have:

  • Signed a Volunteer Agreement form and have it on file with the NPS. Note: The Volunteer Agreement form MUST be updated/completed annually.
  • Viewed all eight Trail Safe! videos and reported this to Dan Watson ([email protected]).
  • Maintained current certification in First Aid and CPR. If you’ve recently enrolled in or completed a First Aid and CPR training, you may submit First Aid/CPR certification expenses to the Alliance for reimbursement. Please submit expense receipts to Riley Dupee, Field Operations Specialist ([email protected]).
  • Requested all mandated Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from the NPS (and have received it).








I’d like to volunteer as a swamper, are there special requirements?

Volunteers who want to help as swampers must have:

  • Signed a Volunteer Agreement form and have it on file with the NPS. Note: The Volunteer Agreement form MUST be updated/completed annually.
  • Completed or maintained their First Aid and CPR certification. If you’ve recently enrolled in or completed First Aid and CPR training, approved swampers may submit expenses to the Alliance for reimbursement. Please submit expense receipts to Riley Dupee, Field Operations Specialist ([email protected]).
  • Viewed all eight Trail Safe! videos and reported this to Dan Watson ([email protected]).
  • Requested all mandated Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from the NPS (and have received it).








Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Sawyer training, chainsaw training, five-step cutting process
Photo by Dan Watson.

Become a Certified Chainsaw Operator

The following prerequisites must be met prior to entry into the Chainsaw Training course, and a candidate must have: 

  • An updated Volunteer Agreement on file with the NPS. Note: The Volunteer Agreement form MUST be updated/completed annually.
  • Watched the Trail Safe! video series and reported completion to Dan Watson ([email protected]), Volunteer Coordinator, National Park Service – Ice Age National Scenic Trail.
  • A current First Aid/CPR certification (certification expires after two years). Candidates accepted into the chainsaw training program may submit First Aid/CPR certification expenses to the Alliance for reimbursement.  Please submit expense receipts to Riley Dupee, Field Operations Specialist ([email protected]).
  • Requested Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from the NPS (and have received it).
  • Completed and submitted the Chainsaw Training application.

Please access the form and instructions in the link below. Email your completed agreement to Dan Watson ([email protected]) to establish your Individual Volunteer Agreement.

OF-301A Volunteer Agreement form [fillable PDF]. Note: The Volunteer Agreement form MUST be updated/completed annually.

What to do:

  1. Watch all eight Trail Safe! videos ( a total time commitment of about three hours).
  2. Report your completion to Dan Watson ([email protected]) via the instructions on the Trail Safe! home page.
  3. Report the hours you spend viewing these videos as volunteer services hours under the Training category!

Has it been several years since you last viewed the videos? Please watch them again before attending chainsaw training.

Watch the Trail Safe! videos now (link)

Chainsaw operators are required to maintain currency in First Aid and CPR training.

Are you First Aid/CPR certified from an OSHA compliant provider?

YES: Please email a copy of your training certificate to Dan Watson ([email protected]) prior to the chainsaw course date (once your application is approved).

NO: You must obtain First Aid/CPR certification prior to attending a chainsaw training, then you may email a copy of your certificate to Dan Watson ([email protected]).

OSHA Standards: There must be a hands-on skills component of the First Aid and CPR training to meet OSHA standards (29 CFR 1910.151) and to meet the NPS and USFS policies. On-line only courses are not acceptable.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, mainstream providers such as the American Red Cross are offering “blended” training (combination of on-line and hands-on training), which is acceptable.

Reimbursement: Candidates accepted into the chainsaw training program may submit expenses related to First Aid/CPR certification to the Alliance for reimbursement. Please submit expense receipts to Riley Dupee at [email protected].

Sawyers are required to wear specific PPE while operating chainsaws. Please bring cut-resistant boots (per the IATA Power Equipment Policy) and leather gloves to the training course.

The NPS issues a Logger’s First Aid Kit and also issues chaps and logger’s hard hats to any student who needs them.

Please email Dan Watson ([email protected]) prior to the course date if you need a set of chaps and logger’s hard hat (which is equipped with eye and ear protection included). Even if you already have these items, they may be older, worn, stained or otherwise not serviceable, and the NPS is willing to replace them.

Note: Chaps come in 3 lengths—32”, 36”, or 40”—and are measured from the belt line to approximately 2” below the boot top. Please indicate which length chaps are best for you.

The National Park Service created the following standard operating procedures (SOP) for volunteer sawyers and swampers:

Chainsaw Training, Safety, Maintenance and Operation SOP [PDF]

Please complete the Chainsaw Training application [a fillable PDF].

Chainsaw Training requires a two-day commitment by the applicant. Submittal of application does not guarantee an automatic entry into the class.

Pre-requisites must be met prior to approval into a chainsaw training course.

Location and dates for upcoming training opportunities, are as follows:

  • Langlade County (near Antigo): Saturday, May 21 – Sunday, May 22
  • Waushara County (near Wautoma): Saturday, June 4 – Sunday, June 5
  • Dane County (near Cross Plains): Saturday, September 24 – Sunday, September 25
  • Waukesha County (near Eagle): Saturday, October 15 – Sunday, October 16

Note: Tent camping/RV parking may or may not be available on site. Be prepared to secure lodging on your own.

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Swampers assisting a sawyer, swamper qualifications
A swamper in a yellow hard hat assists a sawyer during post-storm damage corridor clearing. Photo by Liz Jesse.

Become an Approved Swamper

Volunteers who want to help as swampers must have:

  • Signed a Volunteer Agreement and have it on file with the NPS. Note: The Volunteer Agreement form MUST be updated/completed annually.
  • Completed or maintained their First Aid and CPR certification (certification expires after two years). Approved swampers may submit First Aid/CPR certification expenses to the Alliance for reimbursement. Please submit expense receipts to Riley Dupee, Field Operations Specialist ([email protected]).
  • Viewed all eight Trail Safe! videos and reported completion to Dan Watson ([email protected]), Volunteer Coordinator, National Park Service – Ice Age National Scenic Trail.
  • Requested all mandated Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) from the NPS (and have received it).

Please access the form and instructions in the link below. Email your completed agreement to Dan Watson, ([email protected]) to establish your Individual Volunteer Agreement.

OF-301A Volunteer Agreement form [fillable PDF]. Note: The Volunteer Agreement form MUST be updated/completed annually.

What to do:

  1. Watch all eight Trail Safe! videos ( a total time commitment of about three hours).
  2. Report your completion to Dan Watson ([email protected]) via the instructions on the Trail Safe! home page.
  3. Report the hours you spend viewing these videos as volunteer services hours under the Training category!

Watch the Trail Safe! videos now [link]

Swampers are required to maintain currency in First Aid and CPR training.

Are you First Aid/CPR certified from an OSHA compliant provider?

YES: Please may email a copy of your training certificate to Dan Watson ([email protected]).

NO: You must obtain First Aid/CPR certification and then email it to Dan Watson ([email protected]).

OSHA Standards: There must be a hands-on skills component of the First Aid and CPR training to meet OSHA standards (29 CFR 1910.151) and to meet the NPS and USFS policies. On-line only courses are not acceptable.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, mainstream providers such as the American Red Cross are offering “blended” training (combination of on-line and hands-on training), which is acceptable.

Reimbursement: Future swampers may submit expenses related to First Aid/CPR certification to the Alliance for reimbursement. Please submit expense receipts to Riley Dupee at [email protected].

Swampers are required to wear specific PPE while assisting sawyers.

The NPS will issue a logger’s hard hat (equipped with eye and ear protection) to approved swampers. Please email Dan Watson ([email protected]) if you need a logger’s hard hat.

The National Park Service created the following standard operating procedures (SOP) for volunteer sawyers and swampers:

Chainsaw Training, Safety, Maintenance and Operation SOP [PDF]