Across the West, our high-elevation white pine forests are vanishing. American Forests recognizes that fast and concerted action is required to save these iconic landscapes. We have developed a six-part initiative to systematically address these endangered western forests.

Red squirrel

Red squirrel. Credit: Shannon Podruzny

  1. Educate and raise awareness of the level of loss, the benefits these high elevation trees provide and the importance of restoring these forests to health.
  2. Engage local communities to improve understanding and increase support for implementing restoration efforts in these forests.
  3. Promote forest-management policies that result in healthy forests and to change policies that hinder the ability of forests to recover from these threats.
  4. Provide adequate funding for the restoration projects needed to protect and restore western forests.
  5. Protect and restore prioritized areas of concern and monitor results to improve future actions.
  6. Support research and the development of improved management techniques.

American Forests’ Endangered Western Forests initiative aims to implement a comprehensive strategy that can be evaluated, improved and replicated in other ecosystems in need. American Forests selected a pilot project — the whitebark pine within the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) — to serve as the initial model for the extensive protection and restoration of declining high-elevation forests.

To maximize our impact, we are focusing our preliminary efforts in the GYA, where tree mortality rates are high and forest survival is more likely and on a tree species fundamental to the entire ecosystem. The whitebark pine, a foundation and keystone species for the area, is highly impacted within the GYA, with 80 percent of the whitebark pines experiencing moderate to high mortality and only 26 to 28 percent exhibiting blister rust resistance. Whitebark pines are also slow to recover due to their reliance on Clark’s nutcrackers and red squirrels for regeneration.

The GYA is home to about 2.5 million acres of whitebark pine forests, 118 species of fish, 311 different species of birds and 60 species of mammals. The GYA also contains 24 million acres of recreational land, including two national parks and six national forests.

A group of representatives from the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Land Management — known as the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee — has already started work in this area: evaluating the problem, prioritizing areas and developing a strategic plan to both restore and protect this ecosystem. American Forests is excited to work alongside the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee and others to undertake the various elements of our Endangered Western Forests initiative. Working together, we can revitalize this ecosystem, improve the health of our environment, provide safe habitat for wildlife and protect our beautiful, natural mountain scenery. Please visit our website to learn more about the issue and how you can help. Your contribution will support the survival of these iconic landscapes for generations to come.

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Thank you to the U.S. Forest Service for its support of our public outreach and education efforts.