Habitat Restoration

Wilderness Workshop’s Habitat Restoration Program conducts summer volunteer projects to restore ecosystems and spur community volunteerism on National Forest Lands. The program re-plants decommissioned forest roads, pulls invasive weeds, removes old barb wire, repairs wilderness trails and restores wetlands among other work. The purpose of the Habitat Restoration Program is to repair ecological damage to local public lands caused by past human activities, and inspire and engage Roaring Fork Valley residents in stewardship of their public lands.

The Wilderness Workshop protects public lands primarily using the levers of science, law and federal decision-making processes – all of which are highly effective, but somewhat lacking in opportunities for public participation. Several years ago we launched the Habitat Restoration Program as an engaging way for volunteers to roll up their sleeves, be part of our work, and give back to the wildlands and wildlife that are integral to our quality of life in the Roaring Fork Valley. It’s also fun and a great way to involve you, our supporters, in the on-the-ground work of caring for this land we love.

Thanks to our project partners: Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES), Pitkin County, the City of Aspen, the Roaring Fork Horse Council, and the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District of the Forest Service, and to our sponsors: Alpine Bank, the Aspen Thrift Shop, Aspen Skiing Co. Environment Foundation and the Fred & Elli Iselin Foundation for financial support.

Here’s our list of 2017 projects:

  • Sun., June 25 –Seven Star Barbed Wire Removal – The Forest Service recently removed a series of dams to restore a former high elevation wetland; we’ll car-camp in the nearby meadow and revegetate the area with native species.
  • Sat., July 15 – Hunter Creek Weed Pull – For the past two years we have partnered with the Forest service and several local groups to remove weeds from the Hunter Creek Valley. This project is part of the larger landscape scale Hunter Smuggler Cooperative Plan, an over 4,000-acre project to increase forest resiliency outside of Aspen. The weed pull was identified as a priority both because of the high amount of visitation this area gets but more importantly its proximity to a prescribed burn conducted in May of 2016. The projects two goals are to eliminate Canadian thistles from this popular recreation area and to remove a potential seed source for the bare ground created by the prescribed fire.
  • Fri. – Sun., Aug. 18-20 – Capitol Creek Trail Repair –In partnership with the F.S. and Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers, we will repair and re-route damaged, eroded and overgrown sections of the Capitol Creek Trail. Near the intersection of the ditch trail and the main Capitol Creek Trail several section are severely damaged and requires dedicated work to repair. This project will involve a two-night wilderness camp-out and will both enhance the visitor experience on a popular trail leading to one of Colorado’s famed 14,000ft peaks and prevent erosion and ecological impacts to the local environment.
  • Sat., Sept. 16 – Government Trail Barbed Wire Removal For the second year in a row we’ll be removing abandoned, no longer necessary barbed wire from an elk calving area along the Government trail between the Buttermilk and Snowmass Ski Areas. Removing barb wire fencing from this location makes it much easier for animals to move through and reproduce. Since the area no long supports an active cattle allotment, the fencing there is no longer necessary and its continued presence reduces the value of the calving area and poses a hazard to recreationists.

Check out our photo gallery (below) from our past projects:

(mouse over image to scroll through images)

Restoration Projects, 2015


More about restoration

After over 150 years of European settlement of the Rocky Mountain West, our wildlands have experienced anthropogenic (human-caused) changes that have had significant effects on their ecological health.

Fire suppression has caused forests to become choked with unnaturally dense tree growth, leading to more severe and damaging wildfires. The invasion of non-native weed species has undermined wildlife habitat. Predator extermination has led to an overabundance of prey, disrupting the balance of vegetation types. A proliferation of forest roads and trails has fragmented habitat, producing ecological islands that are less able to support a full range of species.

Ecological restoration is the targeted repair of damage, or the removal of disturbance, to allow the land to heal itself through natural processes. It can include a wide scope of projects:

  • erosion control
  • removal of non-native species and weeds
  • revegetation of disturbed areas
  • reintroduction of native plant and animal species
  • habitat improvement for species of concern
  • road/trail decommissioning

Recent restoration projects have included turning old roads into trails, removing unneeded barbed-wire fences, pulling invasive weeds, and rerouting trails around sensitive wildlife habitat.