Building Skills & Confidence: Chainsaw Safety & Operation for Women

Amy Arsenault, Forest Stewardship Outreach Program Manager
participants at the women in the woods chainsaw workshop

Did you know that women landowners help make management decisions on the over 1.8 million acres of New Hampshire forests and are primary decision makers on approximately 23% (429,000 acres) of the state's private forestland? The health of New Hampshire's forestland is defined by the ability of private landowners—including women landowners—to make informed management decisions on their property. However, research has revealed that women are less likely to participate in management activities1, in part because outreach efforts have not reached women as successfully as men.

In response to this need, UNH Cooperative Extension, NH Timberland Owners Association, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, and other partners are collaborating on Women in the Woods, an effort aimed at connecting women forest landowners,  managers, and stewards with the resources, skills, and community they need to make informed stewardship decisions that promote healthy forest resources. One of the first Women in the Woods workshops taught a topic and skill in high demand for women – Chainsaw Safety and Maintenance.

participants at the chainsaw workshop
participant cleaning a chainsaw

The two-day workshop was held in early November at the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests in Concord. It was led by Wendy Weisiger, Managing Forester for the Forest Society, consultant and certified arborist Tish Carr, and Mike Gagnon, Hillsborough County Extension Forester. Fifteen participants including landowners, natural resources professionals, and volunteers from across New Hampshire and New England gathered for the introductory course. In a pre-workshop survey, most participants noted having less than one-year of experience or no experience using a chainsaw prior to the course. Several attendees noted that they felt uncomfortable or nervous handling a chainsaw safely and hoped to walk away from the workshop feeling more comfortable and confident.

The focus of this workshop was on safety: safe posture, safe practices, safe clothing, and safe habits. The first day focused on safety gear, parts of a chainsaw and function, chainsaw safety features, basic saw maintenance, and introduction to proper and safe operation. On day two, participants had the opportunity to practice chainsaw use in a safe, controlled, and supervised environment. Participants practiced basic chainsaw operation, safe movement and operation, making straight up and down cuts, limbing, bore cutting methods, and tension and compression wood.

participant operating a chainsaw
participant operating a chainsaw
participants looking at a tree stump

Women in the Woods aims to foster an environment that provides peer to peer learning and knowledge transfer opportunities. In the post-workshop evaluation, participants noted that the workshop was “very empowering” and that they “enjoyed watching others gain experience and cheering each other on.” Another goal of offering these women-focused programs is to create a comfortable space for participants to ask questions. One participant noted that they appreciated “the pace we worked at and the space to ask questions as needed.”

participants cheering for each other
participant smiling and holding a tree cookie

Due to high-demand, the Women in the Woods team is gearing up to offer a variety of workshops next year. Are you interested in learning about upcoming events? Sign up for our newsletter to receive updates.

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Are you a landowner interested in learning more about your woodlot? Contact your UNH Extension county forester to set up a free site visit.

contact your county forester 


1Butler, S. M., Huff, E. S., Snyder, S. A., Butler, B. J., & Tyrrell, M. (2017). The Role of Gender in Management Behaviors on Family Forest Lands in the United States. Journal of Forestry.


Amy Gaudreau
Forest Stewardship Outreach Program Manager
Asst Extension Program Mgr
Phone: (603) 862-3883
Office: Cooperative Extension, Nesmith Hall Room 211, Durham, NH 03824