National Tree Climbing Program


Tree Climbing At Dorena

Dorena Genetic Resource Center has provided tree climbing instructor training and certification for USDA Forest Service personnel since the mid 1960's. Initially, training was designed to accommodate those involved with tree improvement and project work - primarily cone collection, scion collection and controlled pollination. In the early 1990's, a major shift in the type of tree climbing training began in response to a greater need for research and wildlife related projects. While these climbing needs and skills became more common, the "traditional" climbing needs began to decline.

Dorena has become the recognized leader in providing tree climbing training, not only within the Forest Service, but also with numerous Federal, State and Tribal Agencies. During the past few years, individuals from the Bureau of Land Management, Environmental Protection Agency, US Geological Survey, US Dept of Fish and Wildlife, National Park Service, Colville Confederated Tribes, Pacific Southwest and Pacific Northwest Research Stations and several State Universities have received training and certification at Dorena. Climber candidates at the 2005 Instructors Workshop desired training and certification to climb trees for numerous diverse projects such as: conduct red tree vole surveys, install fungal inoculants, tissue sample collections, nest box installation, phone line maintenance, cone collection and owl platform installation and maintenance. Many of the new instructor candidates were from Smokejumper Units, and were obtaining qualifications to conduct training and participate in forest health protection work for USDA APHIS in Chicago, New York and New Jersey.

The ability of Dorena to offer safe and successful tree climbing training workshops, depends in large part on the small cadre of highly trained and experienced tree climbing instructor/facilitators utilized to conduct the workshops. Potential instructor candidates demonstrate their climbing knowledge, skills and abilities by training 1 or 2 new climber candidates who are assigned to them for the duration of the weeklong workshop. This process is overseen by the instructor/facilitator who will coach, encourage, provide feedback and correction when necessary, and finally evaluate and certify, by consensus, the new instructor candidates. Planning, organization, oversight and logistical support are provided by Dorena personnel.

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Another distinct advantage of the workshops held at Dorena is the typically wide ranging and diverse level of skills, experiences, techniques and equipment used by the individuals attending. Information exchange and dialog among the trainees has consistently been highly rated as a bonus that is not usually found in other tree climbing training sessions. Trainees come away from Dorena workshops with not only potentially new and broadened skills, but almost always with ideas and climbing concepts that they would never have had the opportunity to experience at training sessions outside of Dorena.

A database of Forest Service certified climbers and instructors nationwide is being developed at Dorena to fulfill the requirements of the Interim Directive, and to provide managers with information regarding the strength, distribution and location of the national climbing skill resource. An e-mail directory will also be maintained to ensure the timely distribution of safety information, equipment updates, requests for assistance and notification of training and climbing opportunities.

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For more information, contact Rae Watson at or (541) 767-5717

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