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FSU Forestry Students Master Chainsaw Skills for Game of Logging Certification

FSU Forestry Students Master Chainsaw Skills for Game of Logging Certification
Kathryn Bickerstaff uses a chainsaw on a stump as part of the Game of Logging training program, part of the Frostburg State University Forestry Field Practice Class.

Frostburg State University forestry students are finding out that running a chainsaw has added benefits.

“It kind of makes you feel powerful,” said Rebecca Bowers with a chuckle. Bowers, a wildlife and interpretive biology double major, enrolled in BIOL 460 Forestry Field Practice as part of her forestry minor, where yelling “timber” is a must.

Students earn a certification in chainsaw safety upon completion from the Game of Logging, an industry-recognized chainsaw training program. One component of the course focuses on how to clear out dead and diseased trees in forests through proper chainsaw techniques. That’s also a powerful skill for job candidates seeking to maintain state and national forests.

“The main point of this course is to help build students’ résumés, so they know how to use a chainsaw,” said Dr. Sunshine Brosi, associate professor of biology. “They can put that on their résumé when they go to work for the National Park Service or the Nature Conservancy or any other agency.”

Kevin Snyder of Kevin Snyder Logging in Pleasantville, Pa., led the Game of Logging certification, assisting Brosi in the course. Certified training provided by folks like Snyder gives students access to experts in the industry.

“It’s a sponsored program to learn how to directionally fell trees,” Brosi said. “Part of that is for the environmental benefit of putting the tree exactly where you want it. It reduces skid roads into an area and helps minimize damage to residual trees when you selectively log.”

The class is offered in odd-numbered years during the summer session as part of the University’s forestry minor program. It’s a unique opportunity that makes students thrilled to come to FSU.

“All of my friends are really jealous that go to other schools,” said Kathryn Bickerstaff, a senior earth science major who wants to work for the National Park Service. “They don’t have opportunities like this. It’s one thing to learn the concepts and another to learn the hands-on concepts and to actually apply the concepts you learn.”

Snyder showed students the surgical precision needed to properly fell a tree, avoiding injuries as well as avoiding damaging healthy trees. Some of the deft work includes hammering a wedge into the cut with the butt of the ax.

Felling a tree involves much more than cutting, including figuring out the angles of the fall, potential hazards both in the ground and in the sky. Snyder slowly swung his ax, driving a stake into his cut, explaining to students how predictable a tree can be if properly cut.

“The tree is pivoting on the hinge. It’s working like a hinge on your house,” Snyder said. “Once I get it over far enough, then the weight of the tree will be forward and gravity will take over.”

Learning the parts of the saw was just as important for Bowers.

“I knew where the attack part of the saw was, which really helped,” Bowers said. “I was afraid of hitting the kickback part of it.”

Bickerstaff and fellow classmates had to master hand and arm placement on the chainsaw and proper attack angles to get the perfect cut.

“Getting the chainsaw in the wood – it was a lot harder than I thought,” Bickerstaff said. “You needed a lot more control of your arms than I had anticipated, but understanding the concepts was easy.”

Once in control of the chainsaw, students will come away with not only course credit and certification, but bragging rights as well.

“My dad will be impressed,” Bickerstaff said, smiling.

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