Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation (WPEF)

We are a science-based non-profit dedicated to counteracting the decline of whitebark pine and enhancing knowledge about the value of its ecosystems.


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Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation
PO Box 17943
Missoula, Montana 59808

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Request for Core WBP Restoration Area Designations: Data Call 2A

Download a NWPRP Data Call 2A, Work Flow Example


Rationale for Restoration Plan

The overarching goal of whitebark pine conservation and restoration is to develop and sustain healthy and resilient whitebark pine communities in the face of current and future challenges. The purpose of the National Whitebark Pine Restoration Plan (NWPRP) is to focus scarce resources to ensure that a proportion of whitebark pine’s distribution—a collection of agency and tribal-nominated core areas—develops and retains healthy and resilient whitebark pine populations. The restored whitebark pine populations within agency and tribal-designated core areas will serve as the “dissemination centers,” that is as source populations, for the spread of whitebark pine to less healthy or untreated areas over time through the seed dispersal services by Clark’s nutcrackers. Trees within core areas are expected to maintain genetic diversity and to evolve high levels of blister rust resistance through restoration projects such as planting and enhanced natural regeneration efforts. By focusing resources on important portions of whitebark pine’s distribution, we have a greater chance of creating healthy and resilient whitebark pine populations that maintain functional communities on the landscape, including provision of ecosystem services.

Data Call 2A: Components

The target deadline for core area nominations and associated information is now October 2020. The requested information consists of three categories:

  • GIS shapefile of each nominated area polygon.
  • Whitebark pine health status for each nominated polygon.
  • Criteria used for each polygon nomination.

Core Area Definitions

A core area, as defined for the NWPRP, represents roughly 20 to 30% of the total whitebark pine distribution within an agency or tribe’s jurisdiction; in total, the core areas nominated collectively should represent 20 to 30% of whitebark pine’s U.S. distribution. Accordingly, we encourage agencies and tribes with contiguous whitebark pine communities to collaborate on core area decisions. The core area will be recognized within each agency or tribe as having high priority for implementing whitebark pine restoration actions. The timeline for completing restoration within agency core areas, which includes verification of acceptable levels of success, is 10 to 15 years after the restoration plan is finalized (2030-2035), although faster tracking is highly recommended. (Core area nominations do not preclude restoration actions in non-core areas of distribution, although they should be considered lower priority.)

Selection criteria for core area polygons: core area attributes. Biological criteria have the highest priority. The criteria below are not ranked, except that the first four are highly important. Ranking and rank weighting for core area nominations may occur at the local unit level or at a higher agency level, to be determined by each agency, and should be accomplished in relation to the number of criteria that apply to a given polygon. Once polygons are nominated based on biological criteria, secondary criteria can be applied to the ranking process. An integrated perspective on core area nomination criteria is discussed below under the principles of conservation biology, known as the “three Rs,” which serve as the basis for species listing and recovery by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (See Principles of Conservation Biology and Application to Core Area Selection.)

Biological criteria:

  • Climate change refugium
  • Watershed protection
  • Connectivity (good proximity to other populations)
  • High level of genetic resistance to white pine blister rust
  • Genetic diversity (= high general genetic variation, but few stands have been assessed)
  • Health (healthy stands may be identified as core areas for building resilience before health challenges, or unhealthy stands may be selected for restoration)
  • Successional status (e.g., advanced succession)
  • Recently burned (planting opportunity)
  • High mountain pine beetle mortality (planting opportunity)
  • Cone production (important seed source)

Secondary criteria based on feasibility, local values, or policy:

  • Access
  • Cultural/traditional values
  • Recreation value
  • Grizzly bear habitat
  • Scenic value
  • NEPA status
  • Land use designation (e.g., wilderness)

Core Area Nomination Format and Attributes

Where to Submit Core Area Nominations
Please email all submissions as attachments to [email protected]. We can also provide a link for Forest Service regions to upload submissions to the cloud. Other agencies may submit via flash drive, or we can provide a Dropbox link. Please contact us if none of these options work.

Format for Core Area Nominations
Core areas should be created as an ArcGIS polygon feature class and submitted as either a zipped shapefile or geodatabase (preferred) in NAD83 projection. Attribute tables should be created to match the DC2A-Template_final. Please note that the Excel spreadsheet to be used for submission of data contains two tabs; one is the actual template and the second is a data dictionary containing details for each field in the template. Nominated core areas should be accompanied by a text file listing the criteria used for nomination. All submitted data are assumed to be available for inclusion within the National Whitebark Pine Restoration Plan without restrictions.

Size of Core Area Selections
The National Whitebark Pine Restoration Plan is targeting landscape scale restoration. Therefore, each polygon should encompass as large an area possible and should represent more than one whitebark pine stand. Ideally, neighboring polygons should be less than 10 km apart to facilitate movement of Clark’s nutcrackers among whitebark pine stands. We understand that in some regions this may not be possible. Please keep in mind that nominated core area polygons should collectively represent approximately 20-30% of the total whitebark pine range managed by each agency or tribe, and these nominated areas should receive the highest priority for whitebark pine restoration.

Health Data Format for Core Area Selections
To determine the general health and successional status of whitebark pine in the nominated polygons, we are requesting the inclusion of a few basic attributes associated with the polygons submitted. The Data Call 2A template contains sections for successional status, white pine blister rust infection, and mountain pine beetle infestation. We understand that these data may not be available for every polygon. In geographic areas where this information is not available, we ask that you estimate these attributes and report the source of information you used to make that estimate. The potential sources of information in order of preference are:

  1. Plot data available within the polygon
  2. Plot data available within the watershed containing the polygon
  3. Plot data available from an adjacent watershed
  4. Estimate obtained using information in the Hi5 Database
  5. Estimate from US Forest Service Forest Health Protection hazard maps
  6. Other reliable sources.

We understand that because the polygons are large, these data may not be consistent across the entire polygon. When conditions vary across a polygon, we ask that you estimate an average for the entire polygon.

Link to FHP National Insect & Disease Risk Map Viewer

Download FHP Hazard Maps for Whitebark Pine

Link to Spatial Data Archive

Principles of Conservation Biology and Application to Core Area Selection

The Three R’s: Resiliency, Representation, & Redundancy
The viability of a species depends on its ability to persist over time. Persistence requires that populations withstand environmental change; biological challenges including disease, pests, and predation; and, catastrophic events such as large-scale or prolonged disturbances. The likelihood of persistence for a species may be examined by application of the conservation principles of representation, resiliency, and redundancy, referred to as the “three Rs,” first proposed by Shaffer and Stein (2000). These principles now are a cornerstone of species status and recovery assessments under the Endangered Species Act (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016). According to Wolf et al. (2015), “The three Rs framework is comprehensive enough to fulfill the ESA’s recovery requirements for geographic representation, ecosystem conservation, and threats abatement.”

As discussed in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (2016), the three Rs apply to two scales: population and range-wide. The following quote explains the application of the three Rs: “In essence, the three Rs require a recovered species to be present in multiple large, resilient populations arranged across a range of ecological contexts” (Wolf et al. 2015, p. 204). The most important question, integrating information on the three Rs for a given species, is whether populations will survive over time (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2016).

The following explains the meaning of each of the “Rs”:

Resiliency comes from a population’s size, population growth rate, and its level of connectivity with other populations. It measures a species’ ability to withstand various disturbances–both abiotic and biotic, such as climate extremes, fire, insect outbreaks, and disease. Large populations, high population growth rates, and dispersal connections with other populations provide resiliency. For whitebark pine, large populations buffer against individual losses to disturbance such as mountain pine beetle outbreaks or fire, high growth rates mean good regeneration leading to rapid recovery, and connections with other populations through proximity and nutcracker seed dispersal mean that seeds or pollen contribute genetic diversity from other populations and help increase the population size through regeneration. Connectivity is especially important if the number of cone-bearing individuals have been reduced by the disturbance event.

Representation is about retaining the adaptive capacity or evolutionary potential of a species at a range-wide scale by conserving a diversity of populations. The different populations included should represent the full range of ecological conditions within the species and the potential to facilitate adaptation to changing conditions through gene flow. The greater the magnitude of genetic, ecological, and environmental diversity within a species, the greater the representation that is required. For whitebark pine, application of this principle by a given agency or tribe may entail nominating core areas across a broad latitudinal gradient, at different elevations, in different local climates, and on representative soil types, ultimately representing the different whitebark pine communities within their jurisdiction.

Redundancy reflects how well a species will survive catastrophic events. The greater the number of populations across its range and representing different ecological community types or settings, the more redundancy the species has. Redundancy is measured by the number of populations, as well as their resiliency and connectivity, and the geographic distribution of populations. With respect to whitebark pine core area nominations, we are limiting the number and size of core area nominations to reflect only 20 to 30% of the whitebark pine distribution within an agency or tribal jurisdiction. However, the combined core area nominations across agencies and tribes should provide redundancy.

Application of the Three R’s to Core Area Selection
The three R’s at a landscape scale provide guidance for core area selections. Core area selections should incorporate the following factors:

  1. Each core area polygon should encompass the largest continuous area possible with whitebark pine communities. Large populations provide resiliency.
  2. The distance between neighboring polygons should be less than 10 km, a distance routinely traversed by Clark’s nutcrackers. Isolated stands, unless of special ecological or genetic value, should be avoided. Close proximity among core areas supports both resiliency and redundancy.
  3. The different core area polygons should be distributed well geographically within an agency or tribal jurisdiction and represent the full array of ecological settings and conditions (e.g., xeric, moist, high elevation, various topo-edaphic conditions) within a given jurisdiction. This array of polygons supports both redundancy and representation.
  4. If information is available, nominated core area polygons should encompass areas with high blister rust resistance and high genetic diversity, which are key factors for resilience.
  5. Other biological criteria listed above should also be evaluated with respect to the three Rs. For example, polygons in areas predicted to be climate change refugia or highly genetically diverse, support both representation and resilience.

Literature Cited
Shaffer, M.L., and B.A. Stein. 2000. Safeguarding our precious heritage. Pages 301-321 in B.A. Stein, L.S. Kutner, and J.S. Adams (Eds.), Precious Heritage: The Status of Biodiversity in the United States. Oxford University Press.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2016. Species Status Assessment Framework: An Integrated Analytical Framework for Conservation. Version 3.4 dated August 2016.

Wolf, S., B. Hartl, C. Carroll, M.C. Neel, and D.N. Greenwald. 2015. Beyond PVA: Why recovery under the Endangered Species Act is more than population viability. BioScience 65:200-207.

The Two Phases of Data Call 2A & The Requested Information for Each

Data Call 2A

  1. GIS shapefile of each nominated area polygon.
  2. Whitebark pine health status for each nominated polygon.
  3. Criteria used for each polygon nomination.

Target deadline for submission: October, 2020

Data Call 2B

  1. Proposed restoration action(s) for each nominated polygon.
  2. Estimated implementation costs by area polygon.
  3. Monitoring and adaptive management sub-strategy for different restoration actions.

Target deadline for submission: December, 2020