Louisiana Chainsaw Gang

The model for TNC volunteer teams

Chainsaw Gang BBQ

We recently held a BBQ to recognize the work and dedication of our volunteers (and their spouses!) of the Chainsaw Gang.

A volunteer helps prune trees at Mary Ann Brown preserve near St. Francisville, LA.

In November 1999, Don McDowell was brought onto the Conservancy staff as Director of Volunteers. Individuals and groups from all over the state volunteered for various projects from planting trees, clearing fire lines, inventorying species, counting birds, helping with press events, stuffing envelopes, keeping data bases and building board walks.  It soon became clear that to achieve some of our stewardship needs, a smaller group of volunteers with some different skill sets would benefit the Conservancy greatly.  In the year that Don had worked with volunteers, he had identified a growing number of retired men who were looking for meaningful ways to contribute to the Conservancy.  Many of our volunteer events had taken place on week-ends which demanded more from the conservation staff, but here was a group interested in working during the week, that possessed useful skills, and who were looking for challenges. 

One of the first volunteer tasks for this group of retired men (and at the time it was only men) was the removal of a slash pine plantation at the Persimmon Gully preserve, a long leaf pine restoration project in SW Louisiana.  These trees had reached a size which necessitated removal with chainsaws.  For three days and two nights, this group spent time cutting down this slash pine plantation, clearing the way for long leaf and in the process formed themselves into a group. Don’s job for those days was to keep the chainsaws going and at some point he dubbed them the “Chainsaw Gang”.  That year they were recognized by Volunteer Baton Rouge as one of the outstanding volunteer groups for their “Making a Difference” program. More recently, the Chainsaw Gang was on Grand Isle building a massive board walk across a salt marsh, a board walk which Katrina disposed of. In 2013, the Chainsaw Gang is still going strong! 

Since becoming a group the Chainsaw Gang has grown in number and includes both men and women.  They have built board walks, cleared tallow trees from parts of Cypress Island preserve, monitored the trails at Mary Ann Brown, built the native plant nursery on Grand Isle, and have even volunteered for other conservation/environmental groups.  Their contribution to the Conservancy in people hours donated is enormous.  One benefit, however, that would have to be considered priceless is that just being around them and seeing their enthusiasm is a real shot in the arm for the Conservancy staff and other supporters in Louisiana.


If you would like to become a member of the Chainsaw Gang for The Nature Conservancy in Louisiana, contact Jennifer Browning (225-338-1040).


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