Cheers to Whitefish Mountain Resort up in Montana who is now home to over 400 seedlings of an endangered species of pine tree, the whitebark pine, thanks to US Forest Service teams who took to the summit of the resort on a mission to plant. KPAX reports there are many factors as to why the endangered tree species is in decline, from pine beetles to wildfires to a virus:
“We have more mortality than anywhere else within the range where up to 90% of the trees are dead in some places. White pine blister rust. It was introduced pathogen that came on seedlings we imported from Europe around the turn of the century,” –Retired USFS viticulturist Melissa Jenkins.
Whitebark pines are the highest elevation pine tree which makes it vital for a fruitful environment for animals and even insects.
“It’s called the keystone species, or a foundational species, which means without it being there to ecosystems, unravel and don’t function correctly.”
Whitebark pine grows in adverse conditions endemic to areas like the top of ski hills. Whitefish Mountain Resort was one of the first whitebark pine-friendly ski areas (hoping more join the club). It’s also just one of 14 locations in the Flathead National Forest from the Swan Valley to the Canadian border where the US Forest Service collects seeds (the saplings planted are from seeds collected from Whitefish 3 years ago).
Cheers to Whitefish and we hope these little trees take a foothold and thrive for generations of skiers to enjoy!