2018 Ecological Society of America Annual Meeting Presentation

August 5-10, 2018
New Orleans, Louisiana

The National Whitebark Pine Restoration Plan: a multi-agency collaborative effort to rescue a high elevation foundation and keystone forest tree

>>>This plan represents a new paradigm for forest restoration and management—a cooperative partnership among federal agencies and non-governmental organizations to plan, fund, and implement large-scale restoration.

Presenter: Diana F. Tomback, Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation, P.O. Box 17943, Missoula, MT 59808; Department of Integrative Biology, University of Colorado Denver, P.O. Box 173364, Denver, CO, 80217. diana.tomback@ucdenver.edu, 303-315-7642

Eric Sprague, American Forests, 1220 L St. NW, Suite 750, Washington, DC 20005, esprague@americanforests.org, 202-370-4516

Robert E. Keane, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory, 5775 HWY 10 W, Missoula, MT 59808, rkeane@fs.fed.us 406-329-4846

David Gwaze, U. S. Forest Service, 201 14th Street, Washington, DC 20024, dgwaze@fs.fed.us, 202-205-0854

Leslie Weldon, U. S. Forest Service, 201 14th Street, Washington, DC 20024, lweldon@fs.fed.us, 202-205-1523

Scheduled Friday, August 10, 2018, Ecosystem Management II, 8:00 – 11:30 am



Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis) is a widely-distributed tree species of subalpine and treeline forests in the western U.S. and Canada that functions as a foundation and keystone species, important to community development and watershed protection.  Its large, nutritious seeds are an important wildlife food. Whitebark pine ecosystems are deteriorating rangewide from exotic disease (white pine blister rust), west-wide mountain pine beetle outbreaks, advancing succession, and climate change. The species is listed as endangered in Canada under the Species at Risk Act and undergoing status review in the U.S. under the Endangered Species Act.  Agencies with oversight for managing whitebark pine in the U.S. include the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, tribal governments, and private and state lands. In 2017, the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation, American Forest, and the U.S. Forest Service began an ambitious, multi-step outreach process to organize a cross-jurisdiction restoration plan. We report on our progress to date.

The restoration plan, which is geo-spatial, identifies core areas (20-30% of the area under consideration) that will serve as ‘dispersal centers’ for whitebark pine to adjacent regions. The core areas are to be selected within agency units, which vary by agency in size, e.g., Forest Service regions, national parks, tribal lands. Core area selection will generally be based on a set of management criteria, including health status and ecosystem value, ranked by each agency, and includes proposed restoration actions. The plan was announced and discussed at the National Whitebark Pine Summit, which was held in Missoula, MT, November 2017. Collaboration and active involvement by managers, scientists, and resource professionals are proving to be critical to the success of this plan, with further opportunities for feedback planned. Plan deliverables will include a management/restoration strategy linked to the spatial data, field data on health status and restoration actions, implementation costs, and a compilation of best management actions.



Diana F. Tomback, Ph.D., Policy and Outreach Coordinator for the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation, and Professor of Forest Ecology at the University of Colorado Denver: “Whitebark pine is the center of an important web of life—of biodiversity and ecosystem services in western high elevation forests.  But, it is facing an unprecedented convergence of lethal threats.  We have the tools and capability to make populations more resilient to these threats.  Given the scale of this effort, we are approaching restoration both collaboratively and strategically.”

The Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation (WPEF) is a science-based non-profit that promotes conservation of whitebark pine by supporting restoration, education and outreach, and research. The WPEF was founded in 2001 by pioneering whitebark pine researchers and managers concerned by its rapid decline. The WPEF is grass-roots-based with supporting members throughout whitebark pine’s range, a volunteer director and board, and a sister organization in Canada. The WPEF specializes in information dissemination through symposia, methods workshops, and an annual Whitebark Pine Science and Management Workshop; it publishes the journal Nutcracker Notes twice a year. The WPEF partners with the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies and non-profits to support restoration and fund projects.  Visit us at www.whitebarkfound.org.

Eric Sprague, American Forests Director of Forest Conservation, notes, “The whitebark pine restoration effort is a crucial test of how we can sustain critical forests and their natural benefits in a rapidly changing climate. Partnerships will be key and American Forests is ready to get to work.”

American Forests inspires and advances the conservation of forests, which are essential to life. We do this by protecting and restoring threatened forest ecosystems, promoting and expanding urban forests, and increasing understanding of the importance of forests. Founded in 1875, American Forests is the oldest national nonprofit conservation organization in the country and has served as a catalyst for many key milestones in the conservation movement, including the founding of the U.S. Forest Service, the national forest system and thousands of forest ecosystem restoration projects and public education efforts. Since 1990, American Forests has planted more than 50 million trees in all 50 states and nearly 50 countries, resulting in cleaner air and drinking water, restored habitat for wildlife and fish, and the removal of millions of tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Learn more at www.americanforests.org.