Replanting for Resiliency
American Forests has been working across the Northern Rockies and Cascades since 1999 to curb the heavy losses of whitebark pine and other five-needle pines, and to replant resilient forests for the future. We have already planted 500,000 whitebark pine seedlings across 2,000 acres in the United States and Canada. Our projects have accounted for 40 percent of all U.S. Forest Service tree planting since 1996.
The forest ecosystems of the Northern Rockies and Cascades are an ecological treasure, supporting iconic wildlife like the threatened grizzly bear. When we protect and restore this landscape, including famed public lands like Glacier National Park and millions of acres of heavily visited national forest, we are caring for one of our country’s rarest natural treasures.
This landscape now needs our urgent attention. The high-elevation forest ecosystems of the Northern Rockies and Cascades are dominated by five-needle white pine trees that are being rapidly lost to white pine blister rust, overwhelming infestations of mountain pine beetle and extreme fire risks thanks to past fire suppression that has led to a dangerous build-up of woody fuels. All of these threats are rapidly fueled by climate change.
In 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated whitebark pine as a candidate species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA). The agency determined that listing was warranted, but its excessive workload on other species prevented it from being listed. The agency is currently reviewing its status and will report on its findings in 2018. If listed in the U.S., whitebark pine would be the most-widely distributed forest tree under ESA protection. Whitebark pine was listed in 2012 as endangered under Canada’s Species at Risk Act.
American Forests is partnering with the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation (WPEF) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to develop the first range-wide Whitebark Pine Recovery Plan, which will prioritize the most strategic locations for restoring whitebark pine and provide guidance on innovative planting and restoration techniques.
American Forests will leverage private and public funding to implement the Whitebark Pine Recovery Plan through tree planting and other on-the-ground restoration projects. Activities will go beyond planting disease-resistant trees to also support other needed actions, like collecting wild seed for resistance testing and growing those seed into disease-resistant seedlings in nurseries.
To help build a movement for restoring whitebark and other five-needle pines, American Forests, in partnership with the WPEF and USFS, held the Whitebark Pine Summit in 2017. The Summit brought together government agencies, nonprofits and Native American tribes to shape a shared vision for restoration.