National Chainsaw Safety Program FAQs


Find answers to all of your questions about the NPS National Chainsaw Safety Program (NCSP) and Chainsaw Safety Maintenance and Operations (CSMO) training.


I heard a new NPS chainsaw policy is coming out! Is a training course required?

Correct! For the details, you should read the whole policy. Anyone seeking to obtain their chainsaw qualification through the National Chainsaw Safety Program (NCSP) will be required to complete the required “NPS Chainsaw Policy and Use” learning activity. While taking the e-course, you will have an opportunity to download the competency guide and perform a self-assessment to determine whether you already possess the required knowledge and skills (and can proceed directly to the competency evaluation) or if you need initial or refresher training first.

I would like refresher training before my competencies are evaluated. How do I arrange for this?

Training for the Chainsaw Safety, Maintenance, and Operations (CSMO) course needs to be scheduled through your Regional Safety Manager. At the end of this course the evaluation will consist of:

  • A written exam to verify your knowledge of chainsaw safety, maintenance, and operations
  • A field evaluation of your skills and attitude to verify your ability to operate a chainsaw safely and independently.

Will USFS S-212 certification be recognized?

If you are a current red carded wildland firefighter and are certified to operate a chainsaw (FAL1, FAL2, FAL3) then you may continue to operate a chainsaw in a non-fire capacity and under the certification levels described by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG). If you have attended S-212 and are not red carded, you will need to qualify under the NCSP.

Who is the Point of Contact for having my competencies evaluated?

Your regional Safety Manager. Follow established individual Park policies and procedures/chain of command.

Will employees who have been using chainsaws regularly in their jobs for years have to be tested as well?

Everyone in the NPS that uses a chainsaw as a non-wildland fire operator MUST comply with the new policy. This means each person must take the mandatory online e-course and have their competencies evaluated by an NCSP Competency Evaluator.

Once the NCSP policy is in place, there will be two types of chainsaw operators in the NPS:

  1. Wildland Fire Chainsaw Operators who will continue to be trained and qualified through the NWCG program.
  2. Non-Wildland Fire Chainsaw Operators who will be qualified through the NCSP program.

I am a certified Arborist and have gone through the NPS sponsored Arborist Training Program (ATP). Do I have to have my competencies evaluated again?

Yes – see answer above.

Who decides that an employee is qualified?

Only NCSP Competency Evaluators may qualify and issue cards. However, it is ultimately up to your Superintendent (or their designee) to sign and present the card to you. The card must be carried by the operator at all times and provided upon request at any NPS park unit when chainsaws are being used.

How long is the qualification valid? Are there CEU’s to obtain?

The qualification will be valid for 3 years from the date of issuance. After the 3 year period is up, you will need to re-qualify. There are no Continuing Education Units (CEU’s) to obtain. Re-qualification procedures are the same as initial evaluation and must be from a qualified NCSP competency evaluator.

Where will proof of my qualifications be kept? Who will monitor qualifications?

Proof of training ultimately resides at your park. Your Superintendent (or designee) will have ultimate authority of your actions. He/she may retain your training documents but you should also maintain your own training documents. This qualification will travel with you in your NPS career. Likewise, you SHALL carry your card at all times. Qualification will be monitored at the park level. Your card WILL be requested when serving on any incident or project outside of your park.

Does a qualified operator have to record the number of hours operating a saw?

No, however, if they want to become a qualified NCSP Instructor/Competency Evaluator they will need to verify that they have had 40 hours of chainsaw operations per year.

Will there be funding available to bring trainers/evaluators into parks?

Evaluation/Training strategy will be implemented at the regional level and will be the responsibility of the Park to fund.

Is there an interim phase of the qualification process for those who need additional experience?

Based on the outcome of the evaluation, one of three recommendations will be made by the certifier to the Superintendent:

  • The competency evaluator decides that the candidate has successfully demonstrated the knowledge, skills, and ability necessary to operate a chainsaw independently – chainsaw operator qualification at the stated level is recommended and forwarded to their respective Superintendent.
  • The competency evaluator decides that the candidate requires additional training. The participant may operate a chainsaw under the direct supervision of a qualified operator while receiving additional training.
  • The competency evaluator decides that the candidate has NOT successfully demonstrated the skills necessary to operate a chainsaw. The participant should attend additional training to build the required skills before operating a chainsaw.

What’s the timeline for roll-out?

Chainsaw operator proficiency levels will be a phased roll-out. The first phase of competency evaluations began at the Sawyer level. That’s not to say you’re agreeing your skillset is at the Sawyer level; this is just the beginning of the phased roll-out for qualification. It is being followed by Working Faller, Journeyman Faller, and Master Faller. We are anticipating it will take 6 months to develop each additional phase of training. Parks will then have an 18 month grace period to come into compliance.

The current roll-out schedule:

  • Sawyer–Fall 2015
  • Working Faller–Fall 2016
  • Journey and Master Faller–Fall 2017

Contact List for Regional Safety Managers 

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  2. This training sounds like a great idea and will surely be helpful but I just wonder if we have looped in our neighboring land managers to see if they are interested in partnering with this certification? It appears staff and volunteers that help maintain trails on both USFS managed land and NPS land for example (ie SHEN, BISO, BLRI, GRSM, etc) will need to get both S-212 and this new training since the Forest Service requires S212 to operate a saw. Do we know if the USFS will acknowledge this new training/certification in replace of the S212? I imagine this will affect the Appalachian Trail and other long distance trails the traverse through several other public lands and rely on a lot of volunteers to maintain thousands of miles of trails.

  3. @tsafranek Thanks for your comment and question. I looped in with the NCSP workgroup leads and got this reply from Susan Eaves, WASO Occupational Safety Manager:

    “We are trying to work with USFS to see if they will allow reciprocity. We haven’t finalized that process currently. However, they will be able to submit a waiver request through a waiver process and the Advisory Board will be able to evaluate their request for a waiver. I believe the NPS Advisory Board and waiver process should be finalized in the next 90 days allowing adequate time within the implementation period to allow partner groups to request waivers.”

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