Whitebark Pine forests, keystones of the alpine environment, are experiencing tough times due to the cumulative effects of White Pine Blister Rust, Mountain Pine Beetle attacks, and lack of fire on the landscape. Many of whitebark pine stands are being converting to Subalpine Fir/Spruce Stands.

The Swan Range has been particularly hard hit with some areas experiencing over 90% whitebark pine mortality.  It appears that many of the trees that survived the White Pine Blister Rust attacks have since succumbed to the Mountain Pine Beetle.

Since 1998, Northwest Connections has been raising private funding to map whitebark pine conditions in both the Swan Range and Mission Mountains. Although this issue has major implications for watershed health, fire behavior and wildlife, federal investment in the assessment and restoration of this imperiled species has been lacking.

Northwest Connections maintains permanent monitoring plots in several basins across the Swan Range including areas adjacent to Upper Holland Lake, Smith Creek Pass, Cat Lake, Pony Lake and Lion Creek Pass. We also maintain monitoring plots in the Mission Mountains on Lindy Peak, Hemlock Point, Mollman Ridge, and Cedar-Piper ridge. Periodically, Northwest Connections has provided volunteer crews for planting whitebark pine seedlings in recent burns. In 2003, our crews planted 2000 seedlings in the Jewel Basin in the north Swan Range.

Whitebark Pine Monitoring Project (PDF)

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IMAGE CREDIT: Top - Steven Gnam; Whitebark pine seedling - Eliza Wiley