"BILLINGS, Mont. — Whitebark pine trees can live more than 1,000 years, but in just two decades more than a quarter of the trees that are a key food source for some grizzly bears have been killed by disease, climate change, wildfires and voracious beetles, government officials said as they announced federal protections Wednesday.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will designate whitebark pine as threatened with potential extinction, according to details obtained by The Associated Press. The belated acknowledgement of the tree’s severe decline will require officials to craft a recovery plan and pursue restoration work.
Whitebark pines are found at elevations up to 12,000 feet (3,600 meters) — conditions too harsh for most tress to survive. They are considered a “keystone” species other plants and animals depend on for survival, and their edible seeds are spread almost exclusively by a bird, the Clark’s nutcracker."