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Name of Project: Whitebark Pine Tree Planting at Grand Targhee Resort and Hill Creek Area

Number of Trees to be Planted: 7,000

Location: Wyoming

Year: 2012

In May 2011, two national parks, six national forests and two national wildlife refuges signed the Whitebark Pine Strategy for the Greater Yellowstone Area. This strategy highlights the significance of the threat facing the western ecosystem and the need for action and collaboration to stop the loss of one of the West’s keystone tree species. What makes whitebark pine such an important species to America’s western forests?

  • It shades mountains’ snowpack, allowing snow to melt slower into streams, preventing erosion and extending stream flow into hotter summer months. This action affects many water supplies — from those used in homes to those used for agriculture.
  • It’s often the first species to establish itself on sites with difficult growing conditions, providing shelter and stability for other species to take hold.
  • It has protein-rich seeds that feed the threatened grizzly bear, numerous birds, small mammals and other wildlife.

Those are just some of the highlights of what makes whitebark pine so significant. Unfortunately, whitebark pines across the Greater Yellowstone Area are dying rapidly. A 2010 USDA Forest Service study in Caribou-Targhee National Forest revealed that 60 percent of trees in the studied area were infected with blister rust and 25 percent had died from either blister rust or mountain pine beetles. Scientists are optimistic that finding and propagating blister-rust resistant trees — ones that showed no signs of blister rust — presents a path towards slowing the deterioration of this vital ecosystem. In 2012, American Forests and the Forest Service are planting 7,000 whitebark pine seedlings grown from seeds collected from these blister-rust resistant trees to restore areas of Caribou-Targhee National Forest’s Teton Basin Ranger District.


This project was supported by our corporate partner, the Alcoa Foundation.

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