"Western Pine Merits Protection, Agency Says"

"The devastation that bark beetles and fungus have wreaked on hundreds of thousands of acres of whitebark pine trees in the northern Rockies has been tracked and chronicled for 30 years. Now the Fish and Wildlife Service has weighed in with a finding that climate change threatens the long-term survival of the species.

But the service said that it could not spare enough money and staff time to list the trees as threatened or endangered and give them the protections that flow from a listing.

The finding, which said that a listing was “warranted but precluded,” noted that scientific studies show “a substantial and pervasive decline throughout almost the entire range of the species.” In the hardest-hit areas around, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks, about two-thirds of these trees have disappeared.

The trees, 57 percent of which are found in western Canada and the remainder in the western United States, either at high altitudes or latitudes, are considered a keystone species shaping the ecology of western forests. But as temperatures increase and soils grow dryer, the document said, the whitebark pine trees will be less able to complete with trees accustomed to warmer temperatures."

Felicity Barringer reports for the New York Times' Green blog July 18, 2011.


"Whitebark Pine Tree Faces Extinction Threat, Agency Says" (Washington Post)

Source: Green (NYT), 07/19/2011