Whitebark Pine May Gain Federal Protection

Tree, important for grizzly bears, affected by global warming, insects, and fungus

The whitebark pine is a tree that lives at high elevations and was historically unaffected by pine beetles but due to global warming this has changed. Also, blister rust, an introduced fungal infection has taken a large toll on the trees.

The pine nuts of the trees are collected by squirrels and Clarke’s nutcrackers who’s caches are an important food source for grizzly bears. With their decline the bears are being affected too.

Whitebark Pine May Gain Federal Protection


  1. DB Avatar

    Good for the NRDC for requesting listing. There’s more dead than alive whitebark everywhere I’ve been, and has been for many years. It’s not just bark beetles which are more likely to attack dense, healthy stands. Global warming? Sept 20 end of comment period, seems fast. But this is a good sign, thanks for posting Ken.

  2. WM Avatar

    Point of clarification on Ken’s introductory paragraphs. Whitebark pine and western white pine have been under assault from blister rust since 1922. Blister rust is not native to North America, and thought to have come here from Europe/Asia in the early 1900’s. It has been on the radar as a problem since at least the 1960’s, including irradication efforts directed at eliminating the wild currant/gooseberry its necessary intermediate host.


    The real question, if listing occurs, is what more can practially be done to reduce or eliminate shrinking numbers that remain in good health, or to propagate disease resistant strains.

    Global warming seems be the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back,” by creating conditions conducive to more rapid spread of disease. And, because of the importance of the species to griz, it makes it all the more important and appealing for ESA listing. Then what, an expanded planting program for disease resistant trees? Interesting to see what follows.

    1. pointswest Avatar

      Invasive species…like blister rust ( a fungus called Cronartium Ribicola), is what is going to destroy the world. It will take time. You don’t stop millions of trees growing in a few decades, but the steady march of the invasive species is intensifying and there is nothing that can stop it…short of stopping all international commerce and travel. We have a world wide Chytrid fungus epidemic wiping out entire species of amphibians. We have noxious weeds changing entire ecosystems. Then there are people who are unafraid to release genetically altered salmon into the native population. I hate to be a doom sayer but every time I hear of some really small little ecological problem like an invasive fungus wiping out a tree species, I get a sick feeling.


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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Ken Cole