Whitebark pine gets a boost from National Park Service and American Forest partnership
The National Park Service and the nonprofit American Forests have signed a five year agreement to help expand the whitebark pine's shrinking range in the Western U.S.
The tree is listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. It lives in high elevation ecosystems and its seeds are a high calorie food source for more than 19 species, including the grizzly bear. But Dr. Libby Pansing, Director of Forest and Restoration Science at American Forest, said it’s also important in other ways.
“It provides and supports the health of our downstream rivers and streams, it regulates snow melts and supplies downstream water for agriculture and drinking purposes, and really just supports a lot of these really iconic viewsheds that we're used to seeing in many of these national parks,” said Pansing.
From the Inflation Reduction Act, $44 million is going toward this agreement. Pansing said that money is going to Glacier, Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Researchers will go out and plant seeds directly into the ground rather than growing seeds in a greenhouse and then transferring them to the ground.
“We don't have to lug these large pallets of seedlings,” said Pansing. “We can just send teams out with buckets of seeds and essentially, expand the area that we would otherwise be able to reforest.”
Pansing said this partnership is a positive move forward on a dire problem that can be solved with sufficient support. It has been estimated that more than 325 million whitebark pine have been lost.