Lots of things about the Trinchera Blanca Ranch are big. Sitting on the east side of the San Luis Valley near La Veta Pass, its 176,000 acres are believed to make it the biggest ranch in Colorado. Its owner, hedge fund manager Louis Bacon, ranks among the richest people in the country. And, after decades of fire suppression and a recent prolonged drought, its forest health problems are huge, too.
Overgrown and insect-infested forests aren’t unique to the Trinchera Blanca Ranch, known locally as simply the Trinchera. But its response has been uncommon. Last fall the ranch began seeking state and local approvals for a timber mill that could take wood off its ailing forests. It’s currently under construction and slated to open for test runs this fall. If it opens according to plan, the mill could help improve the health of the Trinchera’s forests and boost the struggling economy of Costilla County, where it could become the largest private employer. The mill’s influence could also extend down the Sangre de Cristos Mountains into New Mexico and to a small part of the San Juan Mountains thanks to its capacity to handle both small diameter timber and larger-scale timber sales.