Sylvan Dale Ranch Forest Restoration

Project Description

This project was our first larger acreage forestry project and our second project with Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, the first being a flood recovery project at the main ranch. The project treated a total of 107 acres – 100 acres which abut the Big Thompson Canyon community of Storm Mountain as well as U.S. Forest Service fuel treatments and 7 acres of defensible space around Sylvan Dale’s historic Cow Camp cabins. The goal of this project was to develop a forest treatment prescription that balanced both forest health and wildfire reduction considerations. Balancing these considerations was important as Sylvan Dale is focused on stewarding their land and forests, but these acres also provided a great opportunity to build upon USFS fuel treatments to reduce the likelihood of a wildfire moving into the Storm Mountain community from the northeast. To balance these needs, our contractors considered both the diameter of trees and the spacing between tree crowns. Smaller diameter trees (<8”) were removed and 10’ of spacing was created between individual trees or 30’ of spacing between groups of trees. This not only reduces the likelihood of fire moving up into the canopy and spreading but helps to reduce competition between trees. It also opens up the canopy to allow for new growth and understory forage that is critical to wildlife. Slash burn piles were created from the cut material and will be burned in winter 2024.

Wildlands Restoration Volunteers (WRV) led the 7 acre treatment at the historic Cow Camp cabins. This smaller component of the project was focused on protecting these beloved historic cabins while also providing WRV volunteers with sawyer trainings.

Fun Fact

The Cow Camp cabins date back to 1907 when they were homesteaded by a woman named Lena Small and her daughter. The land passed through two other hands, and may have been used as a distillery during prohibition, before it was purchased by Maurice Jessup in 1973. It has been used as a backcountry retreat for ranch guests since then. If you’d like to visit the cabins you can schedule a pack trip with Sylvan Dale!

This project was also the beginning of our ongoing work in and relationship with the Storm Mountain community.

Project Photos

Overly dense forest

Much of the forest in the 100 acre unit was overly dense with small diameter Ponderosa pines and little understory vegetation.

Slash piles around elk meadow

A critical piece of this treatment was to reduce forest encroachment on the meadow that hosts herds of elk every year. Slash piles were built around the meadow to reduce impacts of pile burning on the meadow system.

Aspen enhancement

The treatment also prioritized aspen enhancement. Pines and other conifers surrounding the aspen groves were largely removed to allow for the expansion of aspen areas.

Cow Camp Cabins

Defensible space was created around the historic Cow Camp cabins by removing most of the Ponderosa you see in this picture as well as managing vegetation around the cabin. The cabins are currently going through a restoration effort led by Heart-J Center.

Sylvan Dale Ranch Forest Restoration

Project Accomplishments


100 acres thinned for wildfire mitigation and forest health

Over 1,000 slash piles built on the landscape

Involved over 75 volunteers
7 acres thinned to create a protective buffer around Cow Camp

Builds upon a 1,000+ acre fuels treatment completed by the USFS

Protected a meadow system that acts as a refuge for elk herds