Whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis Engelm.), a high-elevation five-needle white pine (Genus Pinus, Subgenus Strobus), inhabits the higher mountains of western U.S. and Canada, across about 32.6 million ha (about 80.6 million acres), with 70% of its range in the U.S. Whitebark pine, recognized as a keystone and foundation species, is declining nearly range-wide from the introduced pathogen Cronartium ribicola J.C. Fisch., mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae Hopkins) outbreaks, and altered fire regimes driven by climate warming. It is categorized as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, endangered in Canada under the Species at Risk Act, and proposed for listing in the U.S. as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. At risk from the same threats are other high elevation, five-needle white pines, including limber pine (P. flexilis James), southwestern white pine (P. strobiformis Engelm.), foxtail pine (P. balfouriana Balf.), Rocky Mountain bristlecone pine (P. aristata Engelm.), and Great Basin bristlecone pine (P. longaeva D.K. Bailey). Several challenges to devising a restoration plan for whitebark pine include a large range across multiple federal and tribal jurisdictions, limited funding and field personnel to implement restoration, and restrictions on whitebark pine restoration in Wilderness Areas. Here, we describe the development of the National Whitebark Pine Restoration Plan (NWPRP), a conservation strategy for restoring whitebark pine across its U.S. range and across multiple jurisdictions. The plan, conceived by the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation (WPEF) and American Forests (AF) in consultation with the U.S. Forest Service, is the product of a collaborative interagency partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and tribal governments. The NWPRP is a geographic restoration plan based on priority or “core areas” nominated by land management agencies and tribal governments and includes process and criteria for prioritizing these areas, proposed restoration treatments and conservation actions, estimated costs for these management applications, and a monitoring and adaptive management plan for each type of treatment or management action. AF and the WPEF in collaboration with partners are developing a multi-pronged funding strategy for the NWPRP that includes federal and corporate funding opportunities but also national and global opportunities related to climate and biodiversity goals. The steps in assembling and funding the NWPRP can be used as a blueprint for constructing restoration plans for the other high elevation five-needle white pines, which experience many of the same restoration challenges as whitebark pine.
Tomback DF and Sprague N. 2022. The National Whitebark Pine Restoration Plan: Restoration model for the high elevation five-needle white pines. Forest Ecology and Management 521, 120204. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2022.120204