Whitebark pine is an iconic tree that defines many of America’s most treasured Western landscapes. The whitebark pine can be found across 80 million acres of public lands in the U.S. and Canada, including national parks and forests. Every year, people hike, camp, ski, fish and hunt among whitebark pine.
Found in the high elevations of soaring mountains, whitebark pine can endure thin, rocky soil and extreme weather. They are the center of many high-elevation ecosystems, supplying nutritious seeds to Clark’s nutcrackers, grizzly bears and other animals. Whitebark pine forests are also vital to the health of our drinking water.
On December 14, 2022, whitebark pine was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, indicating the species is likely to become endangered if not conserved. The whitebark pine is the widest-ranging tree species ever listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Right now, whitebark pine is facing a trio of threats: a deadly disease, a pest and climate change. White pine blister rust, an invasive fungus that slowly kills the tree, is the greatest threat. It is estimated more than 325 million whitebark pine trees have been wiped out, leaving the twisted husks of “ghost trees” behind. If not restored, whitebark pine forests will be permanently altered, impacting their ability to provide important environmental and societal benefits.
This is a solvable crisis
American Forests is partnering with governments and dedicated organizations, like the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation, to protect and restore whitebark pine across its range, using the best available science. By planting diverse, disease-resistant seedlings and managing living trees, land managers have an opportunity to regenerate whitebark pine forests.
How we will bring whitebark pine back
- Planting disease-resistant seedlings. Certain trees have genetic resistance to white pine blister rust. By identifying these parent trees and planting seedlings grown from their seeds, researchers and land managers can grow forests able to withstand blister rust.
- Managing threats to living trees. Living trees can be protected from mountain pine beetle using pheromones and other treatments. Surrounding forests can be managed to limit excess fuel, reducing the likelihood of high-severity fires.
- Funding restoration activities. Funds help pay for activities critical to whitebark pine restoration, including research, seed collection, genetic testing, seedling cultivation in greenhouses, planting and monitoring.
- Growing the number of trained specialists. An expanded workforce of trained specialists is needed to collect more seeds, and grow and plant more disease-resistant seedlings.
- Developing and implementing a restoration plan. American Forests is collaborating with researchers and federal, state and Tribal land managers to develop the National Whitebark Pine Restoration Plan, a science-informed guide to restore whitebark pine.
To support restoration, American Forests is raising awareness about whitebark pine and coordinating with partners to expand the capacity needed to scale up reforestation efforts.
Join the movement to Save the Whitebark Pine
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“Hope and Restoration – Saving the Whitebark Pine”
Coming March 2023
Co-produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Center for Conservation Media and The Ricketts Conservation Foundation, “Hope and Restoration” is a film that showcases whitebark pine and its role in the ecosystem, current threats and the coalition of leaders working to restore it.
The film will premiere in March 2023, followed by screenings in select locations in whitebark pine country. Sign up to receive email updates on the film premiere and screenings.