Aspen trees

Forest Health Projects

Hunter Creek Prescribed Fire

On May 14, 2016, following an extensive planning and monitoring process, a suitable spring burn window presented itself for the USFS White River National Forest and Upper Colorado River Interagency Fire Management Unit to conduct a prescribed fire on the south-facing slopes of the Hunter Creek Valley. The operation, which is part of the Hunter-Smuggler Cooperative Plan, successfully treated 900 acres of mountain shrub and aspen ecosystems in the wildland-urban interface adjacent to Aspen. The burn will enhanced wildlife habitat and reduce hazardous wildfire fuels.

Hope Mine Biochar

The Hope Mine is located approximately 6 miles from the town of Aspen. During the early 1900s the site was an active silver mine but today all that remains is toxic waste or tailings. The tailings contain no vegetation and run directly into Castle Creek, Aspen’s water supply. If the tailings slid into Castle Creek they would have potentially polluted Aspen’s water supply for years. In 2010 ACES in partnership with the USFS used biochar to help stabilize the slope and promote new vegetation. This was a first of its kind application of biochar and the results far exceeded expectations. Today the tailings are covered by a healthy community of native plants, stabilizing the slope and protecting our water supply.

Warren Lakes

Warren Lakes is an 11,000 foot peat bog located approximately five miles east of Aspen. Over the past century, several unsuccessful efforts to mine the peat resulted in a network ditches which drained the peat, dramatically changing the bog ecology. In the fall of 2000, ACES and the United States Forest Service began work to restore the peat bogs to the natural state. Volunteers worked to refill the ditches, allowing water to once again saturate the peat. The following fall, ACES and the USFS worked to reseed ditches with native grasses and sedges.

Hunter Creek Gambel Oak Restoration

In 2017, the City of Aspen, Pitkin County and ACES partnered to restore 80 acres of dense Gambel Oak in Hunter Creek. Gambel Oak evolved with frequent low-severity fires, as recent fire suppression has led to a buildup of fuels and little new growth. Wildlife including deer and elk depend on new growth as a food source throughout the year, therefore it was essential to restore the shrub to the area. The 80 acres of restoration was a series of patch cuts in dense oak that could not be burned because of its proximity to private property. The photo taken eight months after the treatment already shows the new growth emerging.

Hunter Creek Noxious Weed

In 2018, ACES, Pitkin County, and the City of Aspen began an aggressive program to reduce the number of noxious weeds in the Hunter Creek Valley. The continued spread of invasive plants is one of the biggest ecological challenges currently facing the Hunter Creek Valley. These plants limit forage for wildlife and prevent native plants from thriving. With the generous support of the National Forest Foundation and Vail Resorts, we were able to treat 48 acres with targeted herbicide. We worked closely with our partners and the contractor to ensure that everything was done in the most ecologically-friendly way possible.

Hunter Creek Prescribed Fire

On Friday, May 13, 2022, we had the unique opportunity to restore a natural process in our forests. For the second time wildland fire managers from US Forest Service (USFS) in partnership with Pitkin County Open Space and Trails, City of Aspen, Aspen Fire Protection District and ACES lit a prescribed fire in Hunter Creek Valley. Wildfire, once a common occurrence in the West, has been suppressed by humans for over a century. As we’ve learned the many benefits of fire we’ve begun the important work of restoring fire to our landscapes.

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