Traditional Tools & Skills

Information provided in this toolbox is intended to support the use of Traditional Tools and Skills for administrative activities in wilderness. A process for determining the minimum requirement and minimum tool is described and information and training resources are provided. The toolbox features sections on common traditional tools (i.e. saws, axes, rigging, grip hoists, rock tools, etc.), travel methods (i.e. livestock, watercraft, sled dogs, etc.), and project examples (i.e. trails, weeds, etc.). Contact us to suggest new materials for inclusion.



The use of traditional tools and skills (TTS) for necessary administrative activities in wilderness is a basic principle of wilderness stewardship. The basis for this principle is found in the Wilderness Act itself and implemented through agency regulations and policy. The use of TTS or non-motorized tools and methods is directly related to both the purpose and the definition of wilderness as described in the Wilderness Act and agency policy.

Information provided in this toolbox is intended to support the use of TTS for administrative activities in wilderness. The use of TTS is mandated by both the Wilderness Act and agency policy and exceptions are made only when the use of motorized equipment or other prohibited uses are screened through narrow criteria. Comfort, convenience, economic efficiency, and commercial value are not standards of management in wilderness or criteria that are used to screen proposals to use something other than TTS. Assumptions about the use of TTS are often not true and can be overcome. Additional information and a process for making decisions related to use of TTS skills is contained in the  Minimum Requirements Decision Guide.

Management Benefits

The use of TTS to accomplish work in wilderness not only helps ensure that the ’minimum tool’ is used but also provides benefits for wilderness managers and crews. Because the use of TTS may require more human powered effort, it prompts a better consideration of whether the activity really needs to occur  in  wilderness and then, if it does, what the minimum required activity should be. And, once a project and tool are determined, the use of TTS creates an environment that demands greater problem solving skills and often better planning and collaboration before the project begins. The use of TTS also preserves these skills among wilderness managers, crews, contractors, and volunteers.

Public Benefits

The use of TTS provides a public benefit from wilderness. When the public observes the use of TTS in wilderness or at demonstrations outside wilderness the reaction is often one of awe and pride. If TTS were not used in wilderness perhaps these skills would be lost and future generations would not be able to observe how work is done without motors and marvel in the skill and dedication of those who work in wilderness.

Law and Policy

Determining the Minimum Requirement and Minimum Tool


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Crosscut Saw Bulletin

The Cross-cut Saw Bulletin is produced and distributed by:

Region 5 Crosscut Saw Coordinator
Trails & OHV Program Manager
Tahoe National Forest
631 Coyote Street
Nevada City, CA 95959
Direct/Voice Mail: (530) 478-6183
Office: (530) 265-4531
Fax: (530) 478-6109

Contact David directly for current or past issues.

Case Study Examples


Juniper Prairie Wilderness

Saddle Light Sprayer