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white bark pine on esa candidate list

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* Whitebark Pine Put On ESA Candidate List; USFWS Says Keystone Species Facing Extinction


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said this week it has determined the whitebark pine warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act, but that adding the species to the federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants is precluded by the need to address other listing actions of a higher priority.


Roughly 44 percent of the species' range occurs in the United States in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, California, Oregon, and Washington. The remaining 56 percent of the species range occurs in British Columbia and Alberta, Canada.


Whitebark pine typically occurs on cold and windy high-elevation or high-latitude sites in western North America. It is considered a keystone species because it increases biodiversity and contributes to critical ecosystem functions.


The Service will add the whitebark pine to the list of candidate species eligible for ESA protection and review its status annually.


When a warranted but precluded finding is made for a species, the Service classifies it as a candidate for listing.


The Service determined that threats to the whitebark pine include habitat loss and mortality from white pine blister rust, mountain pine beetle, catastrophic fire and fire suppression, environmental effects resulting from climate change, and the inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms.


Whitebark pine is experiencing an overall long-term pattern of decline, even in areas originally thought to be mostly immune from the above threats. Recent predictions indicate a continuing downward trend within the majority of its range.


While individual trees may persist, given current trends the Service anticipates whitebark pine forests will likely become extirpated and their ecosystem functions will be lost in the foreseeable future.


On a landscape scale, the species appears to be in danger of extinction, potentially within as few as two to three generations. The generation time of whitebark pine is approximately 60 years.


Service officials said they were aware this finding may raise some concern about the status of grizzly bears, which are known to use whitebark pine as a food source.


The Service says it has 25 years of data that indicate grizzly bears are not dependent on whitebark pine seeds for their survival. Because whitebark seeds are not a naturally reliable food source, grizzlies have been coping for millennia by switching to other foods when whitebark pine seeds are unavailable by consuming other readily available foods such as ungulates, ground squirrels, i9nsects, roots, mushrooms, and other vegetative matter. Therefore, the Service says it does not believe this finding will impact grizzly bear recovery.


Currently, there is no known way to stop whitebark pine mortality caused by white pine blister rust and mountain pine beetle.


The majority of whitebark pine occurs on Forest Service managed lands, and the Forest Service has implemented conservation actions, including developing and planting white pine blister rust-resistant seedlings. Research on the propagation of rust-resistant whitebark pine seeds and seedlings is underway and strategic conservation plans are being developed.


Whitebark pine is frequently the first conifer to become established after disturbances like wildfires and subsequently stabilizes soils and regulates runoff. Snow will drift around whitebark pine trees, thereby increasing soil moisture, modifying soil temperatures, and holding soil moisture later into the season. Whitebark pine frequently shade, protect, and slow the progression of snowmelt, essentially reducing spring flooding at lower elevations. Whitebark pine also provides important, highly nutritious seeds for numerous birds and mammals.


Whitebark pine is a slow-growing, long lived tree with a life span of upwards of 500 years and sometimes over 1,000 years. Because whitebark pine seeds cannot be wind-disseminated, primary seed dispersal occurs almost exclusively by Clark's nutcrackers. Consequently, Clark's nutcrackers facilitate whitebark pine regeneration and influence its distribution and population structure through their seed caching activities.


The Service made the determination in response to a petition filed on December 9, 2008, by the Natural Resources Defense Council. The Service completed an initial review in July 20, 2010, and concluded that the petition contained substantial information supporting a full study of the whitebark pine status.


The Service has completed a comprehensive review -- known as a 12 month finding -- and determined that there is sufficient scientific and commercial data to propose listing the species throughout its range. However, the Service is precluded from beginning work immediately on a listing proposal because its limited resources must be devoted to other, higher priority actions. The Service has assigned the whitebark pine a listing priority number of 2, which means that the threats are imminent and of high magnitude.


A copy of the finding and other information about whitebark pine is available at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/plants/whitebarkpine



for those interested, more info on white pine blister rust life cycle here:




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Pine beetle can produce two or more generations in recent times due to longer growing seasons and infrequent winter cold snaps (-40 temps for a week or so). Greater numbers and longer periods of feeding ruin what used to control their numbers.


The Western White Pine (not white bark pine) is the Idaho state tree. Blister Rust and logging has reduced Western White Pines (Pinus monticola)in North Idaho to a few scattered trees. Blister rust was an exotic fungus imported to the area.


There's a good picture on page 2 of this UI doccument showing the loss http://www.idahoforests.org/img/pdf/rmrs_gtr35.pdf


Importing exotic species and insects, either accidentally or on purpose, can cause long term problems.


Another example of importing gone wrong:


Most of the Appalachian mountains were forested with American Chestnuts, but importing European chestnuts around 1900 for their fruit introduced chestnut blight and wiped out the dominant tree of the region.


Area forested by American Chestnuts prior to introduction of chestnut blight



Article: http://rs.resalliance.org/2010/10/19/restoring-the-american-chestnut/




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Forests from here to Colorado are looking very sick. I just drove through MT, WY and CO. In all three states, miles (and I mean 10s if not hundreds of miles) of hillsides are covered with dead conifers. It was unbelievable how extensive the dead forests are. At night, the tent and car would get covered by caterpillar poop from all the bud worms munching away. Big fires acoming.


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The nice thing about the forests from Chilliwack to Boston Bar is that tyhe white pine blister rust went through 40 years or so ago and killed off a lot of the dense stands of the pine. The pines that are left are scattered through forests of predominantly Douglas fir and hemlock. These aren't attractive to mountain pine beetle so the remnant pines in this one area are making it through the beetle outbreak (which has peaked around here and is now forecast to start declining) alive.

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in addition to the blister rust and pine beetles, there is quite a bit of tussock moth infestation in the cascades. the east side of washington pass was badly affected a couple of years ago but seems to have recovered pretty well.

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The pines that are left are scattered through forests of predominantly Douglas fir and hemlock.


Did you read what you wrote?


Anyway sad about white bark.

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Yes, what's your problem with it? There's one pine every couple of hectares. Kinda like dogwoods actually.

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The problem is it's sad to see, and it speaks of a general decline and change in the environment. Yes there are new trees, but it is a loss.


While white pines had a high timber value in Idaho they were admired enough to receive protection and listing as the state tree. For the most part protected groves of the trees have been decimated by imported plants acting as vectors for disease.


A lot of effort has gone into restoring wolves and bears to the land. In the case of the American Chestnut forests of different new trees grow, but a lot of effort goes into restoring the original forest.



RALEIGH, N.C. — In sterile labs and under leafy canopies, scientists are taking steps they hope will bring back a majestic forest dweller nearly wiped out decades ago by a deadly fungus.

The 1,200 chestnut tree saplings planted in national forests in North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia last year are thriving, says Bryan Burhans, president of the American Chestnut Foundation.


In its heyday, the American chestnut tree helped build houses and barns and feed bears, deer and farmers' livestock across the eastern USA. It also stored carbon dioxide on an unmatched scale, which today would be a powerful weapon against climate change, Burhans says.


"People have forgotten how important and what a wonderful tree the chestnut was," said Ron Sederoff, professor of forestry at North Carolina State University. "It was one of the most important trees in the ecology of the Appalachian Mountains, and there were rural communities that depended on it. There was wildlife that depended on it. There were industries that depended on it."


"And when the blight came through, all of those things were lost."




They are starting to succeed with restoring American Chestnut efforts, but there are no viable methods of fighting white pine blister rust at this time.


"Although the war on Ribes was sound in concept, it needed to reduce a hazard so vast that success was virtually unattainable. That the forest professionals of the time would make such a massive attempt is powerful testimony to their understanding of the importance of western white pine to its ecosystem - and to American culture. It is also powerful testimony that society may need to rethink the prevailing attitude that humans can control nature."




If you need more examples of efforts to restore forests you can search through studies of other invasives, the damage they cause and the response.


Emerald Ash borer receives a lot of attention in regions of the country where ash trees are a major part of the forest. http://www.emeraldashborer.info/

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Thanks for the report Rad.


Clarks Nutcracker tearing into a Whitebark Pinecone. Holding your hand up with a peanut in it will often get the Clarks to come pick it right out of your fingers if they are around...kids love em.



Whitebark pine



Coming out on Washington DNR land (state managed) last weekend with a non-US native, he asked about the obvious logging...I was a tad embarrassed. Said "well, they clear cut cause ... cause...it's easier and it makes more money.". They trash all of the other trees here, a diverse group of things...like this (paused to poke a big old rotten Western Red cedar laying prone) with all these little Doug Firs..cause it.....cause it makes them more money......Hmmm. Seemed wrong to leave it like that so I added. I think that these Western Red Ceders will be worth a lot more, but they aren't so rare right now and they take longer to harvest so....ahhh, nevermind.....


"why did they burn everything?" Ahhh, maybe thats a slash pile burn that got out of control...or maybe they wanted to better control what grew afterwards, I have no way of knowing. Maybe they wanted to merely reduce hazardous fuels ...? Look, how the hell would I know anything about that? " LOL


No idea. I let professionals do their thing.



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