Why Whitebark Pine?
Whitebark pine has the largest distribution of any five-needle white pine in North America, but whitebark pine health is deteriorating rapidly across its range, particularly in the Rocky Mountains, Pacific Northwest, and northern Sierra Nevada. The widespread decline of the species from an unprecedented combination of threats requires timely management intervention. In 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated whitebark pine as a candidate species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The agency determined that listing was “warranted but precluded” but will reevaluate whitebark pine as early as 2019. Whitebark pine was listed in 2012 as “endangered” under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. If listed in the U.S., whitebark pine would be the most-widely distributed forest tree under ESA protection — of note, 75 percent of the U.S. distribution is on U.S. Forest Service lands.
Restoring whitebark pine poses logistical and fiscal challenges, given the magnitude of its distribution and budgetary constraints. These constraints argue for a strategic approach to restoration, emphasizing designated “core” areas, which will have the highest priority for restoration activities. These core areas should serve as ‘dispersal centers’ for whitebark pine to adjacent regions.
The national summit, held in November 2017, kicked off the plan process by bringing together high-level representatives and regional resource managers from the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, tribal governments, and interested NGO partners. The major emphasis was on the rationale and conceptual basis for the strategic plan and the development of selection criteria for core areas, as well as a description of the process.
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