Have crosscut, will travel; Sawyers from Bitterroot National Forest aid hurricane recovery effort

Three sawyers from the Bitterroot National Forest of Montana are taking their crosscut saws to hurricane-ravaged Georgia to help clear trees in wilderness areas there.

The three — Amelia Shields, Sierra LaBonte and Katherine Bicking — left the Bitterroot National Forest, where they worked all summer clearing trails. They expect to be available for work on the Chattahoochee-Oconee National later this week near Blairsville, Georgia, cleaning up after Hurricane Irma.

“It’s part of the Appalachian Trail that’s in a wilderness area,” said Mark Smith, a trails specialist for the Bitterroot National Forest. “There are about 600 trees down on this portion of the Appalachian Trail, and they need some technical experts, people who are available this time of year when resources are low, since a lot of people have gone back to school.

“They’re trying to maintain those traditional skills and work ethic in a wilderness area, and these three are perfect for that.”

The trio spent the summer helping to clear about 700 miles of trails with other groups like the Montana Conservation Corps and Bitter Root Back Country Horsemen. LaBonte noted that they worked eight days at a time, amid temperatures in the 90s, along with bugs and smoke, then would have six days off.

“We walk in and cut trees, and walk out and cut trees,” Bicking said with a laugh, noting how they can sometimes clear a trail only to have the wind topple more trees within days.

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