A Bold Plan to Save the Last Whitebark Pines

Melissa jenkins usually Do not take pictures on a hike in Montana’s Whitefish Range. Here, the whitebark pine that he works to restore is so depleted by a fungus that gray skeletons rule the ghost forests, once symbols of widespread species. But last summer, he stopped, but ripped off, a shot of survivors off the trail. “It seems to walk through the guards standing with the soldiers even though they had little left to give to the fight,” she recalls. “Walking through ghost forests is awful, because you can imagine what it once was, and you’re not sure it will ever happen again.”

For 30 years, Jenkins Working to save these trees, which grow where no other tree dares. They grow in sterile soil on exposed slopes, mark the tree line, and they provide habitat and fodder for birds and Bear Where there is nothing else. “It represents wildness. It represents my passion for the outdoors, ”says Jenkins. “It is a keystone species that is important for high-altitude ecosystems. Man started the blister rust which has destroyed this species, and I think it is our responsibility to try and help restore the species. “

Jenkins Whitebark is a founding member of the Pine Ecosystem Foundation, and she retired from the US Forest Service last summer. Retirement changed slightly. She became a federal contractor, led by Recovery strategy for Continent ecosystem crown, Which covers 18 million acres in northern Montana and southern Canada, enclosing the Continental Divide.

Today there are More Dead Whitebark Pines According to the Forest Service, compared to living people in the United States. In some areas, including northwestern Montana, where Jenkins is located, up to 90 percent of whitebarks have deteriorated. In Canada, the trees have been listed as endangered since 2012. They have fallen prey to ravages Blister corrosion Infection and pine beetle infection, exacerbated by climate change in recent decades.

The range of whitebark pines extends from British Columbia in the north, northern Nevada to the south, the Pacific Northwest to the west, and Wyoming to the east, rising up to 12,000 feet, their tights often contrasted by harsh winds. they are a Keystone species Important for ecosystem health. what is ours High Protein, High Calorie Seeds (Between 1 gram 5,000 and 7,700 calories) Are important food for over 100 species, including sneaky bears, birds and squirrels. They are one of the first people to revive after a fire, a “nurse tree,” providing shade and shelter from the wind for small, slow-growing species. And their candelabra canopy snow falls, To help regulate runoff and reduce spring floods and summer droughts, is important for drinking and agricultural water supplies. Without Whitebark, the West faces a more dangerous future.

For a decade, environmental groups have unsuccessfully pushed for Whitebark Pine, Pinus albiculis, To be protected under the Endangered Species Act in the US. In late November, the US Fish and Wildlife Service The proposed gave it the status of a threat. Jenkins and others are working to revitalize the species, hoping the new focus will raise money for innovative answers: combining old-fashioned seed collection and grafting techniques with modern strategies to identify resilient trees for fungi To do, collect their seeds, and then plant in places. Where they will thrive.

“This is one of the most rigorous, forward-thinking forest restoration efforts in the country. Geneticists, field biologists, field rangers, and nursery staff are engaged and wondering what is needed.” Eric SpragueVice President for Forest Restoration American forest, A nonprofit that has partnered with the Forest Service and the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation to help plant 700,000 trees.

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