Colorado - Forest Health Index

State: Colorado
Region: Aspen; Roaring Fork Valley

As climate change continues to trigger dramatic changes in our forest ecosystems, Aspen Center for Environmental Studies’ (ACES) For the Forest program is committed to producing groundbreaking scientific research on forest issues and actively restoring our forest landscapes. Educational initiatives include the Forest Health Index, which provides an annual “report card” for our watershed’s forests using over 20 indicators; Forest Forecasts, which visualizes current and future species distributions of 100 Western tree species under both best- and worst-case climate change scenarios; and the State of the Forest Report, which examines trends in climatic variables and insect and disease infestations while delving deeper into why we’re seeing the changes in forest health that we are. ACES also is taking action with on-the-ground forest restoration projects through the Hunter-Smuggler Cooperative Plan, which will improve forest health, wildlife habitat, recreation, and education opportunities for 4,861 acres of federal land adjacent to Aspen.

Overflights targeted conifer mortality in Snowmass Canyon, oakbrush regrowth on Basalt Mountain following a prescribed burn, aspen defoliation on the flanks of Mt. Sopris, a recent lodgepole pine restoration project on Smuggler, and an upcoming oakbrush restoration project in the Hunter Creek Valley.

Educating around watershed-scale forest health research and restoration projects can be tricky from on the ground—you can only see so much from a road or trail. Forest overflights allow us to take aerial photographs that help communicate trends in local forest health, give us the opportunity to assess the efficacy of past restoration projects, and they provide a high-altitude vantage point critical to detecting stressed forest stands in need of attention.

Wild Lands