Whitebark pine still waiting on ESA

Whitebark pine are being killed by a disease, white pine blister rust, as well an insect, the mountain pine beetle, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Meanwhile, other species of trees have crowded out whitebark pine due to fire suppression efforts over the past century, the agency said.

The Wildwest Institute and the Alliance for the Wild Rockies couldn’t convince the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that whitebark pine should be a priority for protection under the Endangered Species Act.  The Fish and Wildlife Service found whitebark pine to be warranted for listing but precluded by higher priorities.  The priority system the agency uses for considering additional species made whitebark pine a priority for listing, but the court held that the Service doesn’t have to follow its own priorities.  Whitebark pine remains a candidate species.

4 Comments

  1. Jon- I don’t know about wildlife species but I do know a lot about pines.. if it were listed, what would your expectations be for changes in management strategies that would help the species?

    • That would also be my question. What can we really do to reduce mortality and ‘protect’ the species, through “Recovery Plans”? Is ‘Let-Burn” going to save those trees? Will a Wilderness Designation ‘preserve’ those overcrowded conditions? Shall we fence off populations, protecting the trees from the evil “human cancers”?

      I will bet that some people hope that an ESA designation will result in banning fossil fuels and promote only ‘clean’ energy.

  2. I can’t speak for these groups. I did look at the petition for listing, which was filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council in 2008. In the discussion of existing “regulatory mechanisms” to protect the species it focused on two things.

    Interestingly, one was the forest planning process. They railed against the 2008 Planning Rule because it “supersedes previous regulations that ‘established requirements for plant and animal diversity,’ including maintaining the diversity of tree species,” and they “reject the use of any ‘standards’ (which can be used to restrict the use of management practices such as clearcutting, forest thinning, and prescribed burns).” These aspects of planning regulations have been fixed with the 2012 Planning Rule, but the petition suggests a concern about these particular management practices if implemented in a way that would harm whitebark pine (I agree with the point that they could also be used to accomplish restoration). These arguments could also be made against existing forest plans .

    The other is more general. After acknowledging that the Forest Service had taken some steps towards restoring whitebark pine, the petition says, “However, in general, efforts to date are not part of any national mandate, are haphazard, uncoordinated between regions, and suffer from limited funding.”

    The petition also mentions climate change in this context, “It is also worth noting that global warming (which the Forest Service itself acknowledges is an ‘important’ forest management issue) is a problem well beyond the capacity of individual forest managers, or the Forest Service itself, to effectively address.”

    https://ecos.fws.gov/docs/petitions/92210/557.pdf

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