The Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation and American Forests are partnering with the US Forest Service and collaborating with other federal agencies and tribes to develop a consensus-based core area restoration plan for the U.S. distribution of whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis). This strategic plan will identify selected areas within the U. S. range of whitebark pine for priority restoration, focusing resources. The plan will also facilitate federal and NGO fund-raising efforts for restoration.
Rationale and process
Whitebark pine has the largest distribution of any five-needle white pine in North America, but whitebark pine health is deteriorating rapidly across its range, particularly in the Rocky Mountains, Pacific Northwest, and northern Sierra Nevada. The widespread decline in whitebark pine from an unprecedented combination of threats requires timely management intervention. In 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated whitebark pine as a candidate species under the U.S Endangered Species Act (ESA). The agency determined that listing was “warranted but precluded” but will reevaluate whitebark pine as early 2019. Whitebark pine was listed in 2012 as “endangered” under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. If listed in the U.S., whitebark pine would be the most-widely distributed forest tree under ESA protection, with over 75% of the U.S. distribution on U.S. Forest Service lands.
Restoration of whitebark pine poses logistical and fiscal challenges, given the magnitude of its distribution and budgetary constraints. These constraints argue for a strategic approach to restoration, emphasizing designated “core” areas, which will have the highest priority for restoration activities. These core areas should serve as ‘dispersal centers’ for whitebark pine to adjacent regions.
The final national whitebark pine restoration plan will be a report comprising the following:
- Nominated core areas for each administrative unit, based on a subset of criteria and given priority designations (e.g., 1 through 3). All nominated core areas combined will represent a target proportion (e.g., 20% to 30%) of whitebark pine’s distribution in any administrative unit.
- Map of core restoration areas designated by priority.
- Narrative by agency and geographic unit within the agency.
- Specific restoration protocols assigned to nominated core areas.
- Estimated implementation costs for these restoration protocols.
- Monitoring and adaptive management substrategy.
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