Vail Valley: Company stays green trimming brown trees |

Vail Valley: Company stays green trimming brown trees

Scott N. Miller
Vail, CO, Colorado
Scott N. Miller/smiller@vaildaily.comTyler Huggins, left, and Matthew Schmidt recently founded Restoring the Rockies, a company that specializes in natural-plant landscaping and creating more fire-safe space around homes in wildland areas. The company is dedicated to proving that going green doesn't have to command a premium price.

Matthew Schmidt and Tyler Huggins think they see a need in the Vail Valley. They also think they’re the guys to fill it.

Schmidt and Huggins recently founded Restoring the Rockies, a company specializing in creating fire-resistant “defensible space” around area homes. The company also does landscaping with plants found in the area.

The idea for the business came when the partners looked around the area, and looked into new regulations either recently passed or coming down the trail. Some of those new regulations now require homeowners to clear close-in timber and brush from around their houses. Regulations in some counties also require property owners to clear out beetle-killed trees.

Schmidt and Huggins are both former U.S. Forest Service firefighters who met in the valley last year. Huggins spent last summer clearing space around the homes in the Mountain Star subdivision north of Avon.

After meeting Schmidt, the two decided to put their forestry experience to use around the region.

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“We know how to cut for defensible space, aesthetics and forest health,” Huggins said.

Working with the landscape in mind also includes restoration projects suck as erosion control and re-vegetation with native plants. Native plants also play a big part in the partners’ landscaping designs. The idea, Schmidt said, is to stay local with materials as much as possible.

“You can generally get native plants cheaper than other plants,” Schmidt said.

Staying local also helps keep a few long-haul trucks off the roads, part of Restoring the Rockies’ plan to be as green as possible in all aspects of the business.

A lot of stuff that falls to chainsaws is ground up for compost or wood chips that can be used at a home site. Bigger pieces may soon go to a furniture maker in the region who wants the blue-tinted wood from beetle-killed trees.

And, Huggins said, he and Schmidt are talking to a “biomass” company that can turn wood chips into alcohol for fuel.

“We’re always looking for outlets so we’re not just taking stuff to the dump,” Schmidt said.

The desire to go green even extends to Restoring the Rockies’ diesel pickups. Huggins and Schmidt have converted the trucks to run on recycled vegetable oil provided by a company in Summit County. The trucks use standard diesel fuel to get started, but after a few minutes, the trucks run on cooking oil.

Not only is using cooking oil in the trucks using a waste product, it’s also cheaper, part of the idea that running a green business doesn’t have to come with a price premium.

To get the word out about the company, Schmidt and Huggins have been hitting the road, meeting with homeowners associations, construction companies and real estate agents, pushing their ideas of a green company that can save clients money, too.

“We’re able to offer better prices than a lot of companies,” Huggins said. “We’re employee owned and operated. We have crews we can hire, but they’re all skilled guys.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or



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