Forest Health Program

The Hunter Creek Prescribed Fire successfully treated 900 acres of mountain shrub and aspen habitat! Click here for a behind-the-scenes photo blog on the operation.

ACES' For the Forest program produces groundbreaking scientific research on forest issues and actively restores our forest landscapes.  Dramatic changes to our forests will likely continue as climate change predicted for the 21st century unfolds. The following outlines the steps ACES’ forest health initiatives are taking to promote management towards resilient, thriving forests. 

Forest Health Index and State of the Forest Report: ACES' Forest Health Index is an interactive, web-based tool for user to explore the health of Roaring Fork Watersehd forests. The 2nd annual Forest Health Index for the Roaring Fork Watershed was released in January 2015 with an overall score of 82 (a four point improvement). In addition to updating existing indicators, we added more in-depth treatments of streamflow and snowpack. The City of Aspen has formally adopted the Index as the ecological health metric for their Sustainability Dashboard, and ACES co-authored an academic paper on the science behind the Index that was submitted to the Journal of Forestry. The Index can be explored at The inaugural iteration of the accompanying State of the Forest Report reached tens of thousands to critical acclaim, and can be read onlione here

Forest Forecasts: In partnership with the University of Arizona, ACES has developed a revolutionary model that utilizes millions of species occurrence records and the most cutting-edge climate models to produce a high-resolution picture of our future forests. The model currently includes current and future species distributions of 100 Western tree species under both best- and worst-case climate change scenarios. We are also producing 3D movies illustrating how communities will actually look as our forests change under different climate scenarios. The website housing both the interactive geospatial portal and the results of our initial scientific analyses can be explored at

Hunter-Smuggler Cooperative Plan: In April 2014, the US Forest Service formally approved this 20-year stewardship plan for 4,861 acres of federal land adjacent to Aspen. ACES now leads an Implementation Team that convenes semiannually to determine projects for the upcoming field season. In September 2014, restoration work began on five units of lodgepole pine forest on Smuggler Mountain. By encouraging new growth in otherwise even-aged stands, our forest can better defend itself against insect and disease infestations while simultaneously providing more robust wildlife habitat.

What's Happening in Our Forest? Click here to watch ACES' animated short film the explores how forests affect, and are affacted by, the forces sround them.