SAWS crew featured in Outside Magazine

A SAWS volunteer in Bald River Gorge Wilderness, Tennessee.

Bill and Laura Hodge

The Wilderness Society's trail crew known as Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS) has been featured in this month's Outside Magazine.

SAWS was the brain child of Bill Hodge, who worked with local groups to rally support for the Tennessee Wilderness Act. Organizations that were already using volunteers to maintain forest trails were surprisingly hesitant to support the bill, and Hodge discovered it was because wilderness designation requires harder work to maintain trails - more than they were willing to do. So Hodge helped recruit a whole new generation of people to help.

SAWS engages young adults in stewardship by training them to maintain wilderness trails in the forests of the Appalachian region. To preserve the quality of the wilderness experience, SAWS volunteers are required to use hand tools like old-fashioned two-person saws.

But the sweat-inducing hand saw hasn't kept volunteers from signing up to help their local forests. According to SAWS director Bill Hodge, SAWS has:

  • utilized more than 500 volunteers over the last three years
  • employed 5,000 volunteer hours and 22 seasonal employees in 2013
  • restored and rehabilitated over 100 miles of trail 

All who enjoy outdoor recreation owe a debt of gratitude for volunteers like SAWS. Trails are important to the health of the forest and to the health of its visitors, but maintaining them requires funding. Unfortunately, funding for public lands like forests continues to be cut, most recently because of sequestration.

"In this era of austere government spending, the focus is going to remain on volunteers," Hodge told Outside Magazine. 

Read more about SAWS in Outside Magazine's article "The crosscut saw as gateway drug."

Watch a video of the incredible story of Jose Arroyo, a former SAWS crew member: