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Creating a Restoration Plan for Whitebark Pine

American Forests and the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation are partnering with the U.S. Forest Service and collaborating with other federal agencies and tribes across the region to develop a consensus-based, core-area restoration plan for the U.S. distribution of whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis). This strategic plan will identify selected areas within the U.S. range of whitebark pine for priority restoration, thus focusing resources. The plan will also facilitate federal and NGO fundraising efforts for restoration.

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.


  1. A draft National Whitebark Pine Restoration Strategy, which will identify a prioritization of core restoration areas and suggested applications and tools.
  2. A fully functional GIS and plot database to enable local planning and restoration.
  3. A draft Best Management Practices publication to inform local restoration efforts.

American Forests has been working within the whitebark pine range since 1999 in efforts to curb the heavy losses of trees from white pine blister rust and successive waves of mountain pine beetle infestation. Our restoration activities include:

  • Supporting the planting of 500,000 trees over more than 2,000 acres in the United States and Canada
  • Communicating the need for whitebark pine restoration through articles and video
  • Contributing to research on the implications of climate change, water supply benefits, and direct seeding
  • Providing funding for cone collection and sowing seedlings in nurseries
  • Partnering with University of Montana-Gallatin County Extension office to provide whitebark pine education and outreach across the northern portion of the Greater Yellowstone Area, including providing free verbenone patches and developing trail signage

Summit Presentations

Introduction to Whitebark Pine

A review of whitebark pine’s unique ecology, cultural benefits and ecosystem services; current status and trends, and need for immediate action.

Speaker: Diana Tomback, Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation (WPEF)

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Whitebark Pine and ESA

Review of whitebark pine’s current status under the Endangered Species Act.

Speaker: Amy Nicholas, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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Strategic Plan Approach and Vision

Discussion of plan elements and final products and process for implementing the plan over the next year.

Speakers: Diana Tomback, WPEF; and Robert Keane, USFS

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Current Regional Restoration Plans

A review of current plans that will support the development of the national plan.


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Funding Needs and Opportunities

Status of current funding sources, gaps and new opportunities.


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Whitebark Pine Best Management Practices

A review of BMPs that will be critical to restoring whitebark pine across its range. The talk will present data collected over the last few months from experts in the field.

Speaker: Robert Keane, USFS

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Information Gaps

Session will review the results of a survey conducted over the last few months to gauge the extent and quality of data available for the planning effort.

Speaker: Julie Shamhart, WPEF

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Wilderness and Whitebark Pine Restoration Panel

The implications of whitebark pine’s distribution and Wilderness Areas will be discussed including strategies for approaching proposed restoration efforts.


Restoration Plan In-Depth

Building on the introductory session on Monday morning, this session will discuss the Plan components and products in more detail.

Speakers: Diana Tomback, WPEF; and Robert Keane, USFS

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Criteria for Identifying Core Areas

This session will review common criteria used to define whitebark pine priority areas in regional restoration plans.

Speaker: Melissa Jenkins, USFS

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Incorporating Tribal Cultural Values into Whitebark Pine Ecological Analyses in the Crown

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Other Key Plan Elements

In addition to identifying core areas, the Restoration Plan will also provide cost estimates, measures of success and a monitoring and adaptive management strategy.

Speakers: Diana Tomback, WPEF; and Ellen Jungck, USFS

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