Whitebark pine has been decimated by deadly fungus. Conservationist are teaming up to restore it

By Zakary Sonntag
Casper Star-Tribune
December 19, 2023
Category: Forestry
Region: United States, US West

More than 10,000 feet above sea level, in the backcountry of Grand Teton National Park in the areas beyond Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes, Dr. Libby Pansing spent a month imitating the Clark’s Nutcracker. She planted hundreds and hundreds of whitebark pine seeds. Pansing is director of restoration science with the conservation group American Forests. In a month’s time she and a dedicated team managed only to burry 1,300 seed caches; a single Clark’s Nutcracker, on the other hand, might intern as many as 100,000 whitebark pine seeds each year. But desperate times call for special measures. The worsening spread of a fungus known as Blister Rust has driven dramatic whitebark die-off in critical ecosystems around the West, including Wyoming’s Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. …advocates like Pansing are ramping up restoration efforts as part of an agreement between American Forests and the National Park Service to fulfill a piece of its National Seed Strategy.

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