North Routt After nearly three years of packing hand saws and axes into the wilderness to clear blowdown from hiking trails, Forest Service trail crews are getting some recognition.
The Forest Service's Routt Divide Blowdown Team and trails crew earned a national award for using primitive tools to clear 67 miles of hiking trails in the Mount Zirkel Wilderness Area that impacted by the 1997 Routt Divide Blowdown.
Because it's a wilderness area, no motorized equipment is allowed, so the Forest Service wanted to do the right thing and move the timber by hand.
"We wanted to set that right example to the public," local Forest Service wilderness ranger Jon Halverson said.
That means hiking sometimes as far as 10 miles packing axes and 6-foot cross-cut saws and doing the work entirely by hand.
"Our biggest job (after the blowdown) was getting those trails reopened," Halverson said.
To accomplish that, the Routt Divide Blowdown Team was assembled.
The quickest solution to solve the trail problem was to use motorized equipment to move all the wood, stated regional forester Lyle Laverty in a petition to recognize the Routt Forest officials.
The Forest Service even considered one suggestion to temporarily move the wilderness area boundary so that chain saws could be used.
However, the decision was made to take some time to look at the trails affected and use the rare opportunity to changes some of the paths to better locations.
The team also wanted to uphold the spirit of the wilderness by letting nature take its course, leaving the downed trees and using non-motorized tools to clear the trails.
Using the hand tools instead of motorized saws was a throwback to the past. But Halverson said if done right, the tools can be almost as fast.
"In the hands of someone who knows what they're doing, a 6-foot cross saw can cut real fast. It can fly large chips," he said.
The district ranger during that time, Sherry Reed, said that using the primitive tools was an important aspect of the Forest Service that was under-utilized.
"We viewed it as an opportunity to beef up our primitive tools skills," she said.
It was also an opportunity to teach and certify Forest Service employees on primitive tools. In the spring of 1999 the Hahns Peak/Bears Ears Ranger District hosted a Primitive Skills Academy where employees from 11 national forests around the country were certified, Reed said.
In August, the U.S. Forest Service announced that the Routt Blowdown Team and Steve McCone's trail crew would receive a National Wilderness Award in the Primitive Skills and Minimum Tool Leadership award.
"This demonstrates our commitment to use the minimum tool to get the job done and reinforces to ourselves and the public that we can get things done without using motorized equipment in wilderness," Forest Service spokeswoman Diann Pipher said.
To reach Doug Crowl call 871-4206 or e-mail email@example.com