Women’s Chainsaw Workshop in New Mexico

By Sarah DeMay and Cora Stewart

Women’s chainsaw workshops are impactful and empowering! The Forest Stewards Guild, Southwest office, with funding through Women Owning Woodlands, has now facilitated two of these workshops in Northern New Mexico. The first was a two-day event in 2021 that received rave reviews. We decided to try out a less intensive one-day workshop model for a second workshop this past spring. The students were required to complete the Women Owning Woodlands online Chainsaw safety course prior to the field day and it was this prework that made the condensed workshop schedule feasible. This online course is relatively new, and the students gave it positive reviews!

The workshop was held on private land near Tierra Amarilla, NM from 9:00-4:00, May 18, 2024. We had only 5 students attend, but they were all very motivated learners and the small group size and instructor-student ratio contributed to the success of the class. Students came from various backgrounds but in general expressed the desire and need to be more independent and competent with a chainsaw to more effectively and safely work on their own lands.  The Tierra Amarilla area includes forest types such as mixed conifer, Ponderosa Pine, and Pinon-Juniper Woodlands. This is a very rural area, and forestry and ranch work are a part of daily life for many that live here.

The morning session was dedicated to safety, personal protective equipment, and a hands-on discussion of chainsaw parts, sharpening, maintenance, and mechanics. We provided extra PPE and chainsaws, and the students also brought their own. We discussed basic mechanics and maintenance for both electric and standard gas-powered chainsaws.

After lunch, we discussed and demonstrated handling, starting, and ergonomics. Kate did a felling demonstration which we then turned into a limbing and bucking exercise. The students all had 2 hours to practice starting, bucking, limbing, and standard safe practices such as OHLEC, kickback awareness, chain break use, and proper grip.

When asked at the end of the day to critique the class, the students all agreed that the small group size was a huge benefit and really allowed them to get the most out of a one-day workshop. They all had a great time and said it was very worthwhile, increasing both knowledge and confidence. Additionally, using the online course to condense the workshop into one field day made it more doable for both instructors and students.  Overall, a very worthwhile and fun day in the woods for everyone!