On December 2, 2019, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed listing the Whitebark Pine (Pinus albicaulis) as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act. The tree’s range covers more than 80.5 million acres in seven western states (Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada) and Canada. Whitebark Pine is considered a keystone species because it regulates runoff by slowing the progress of snowmelt, reduces soil erosion by initiating early succession after fires and other disturbances, and provides seeds that are a high-energy food source for some birds and mammals.
Importance of the Listing
The proposed listing is important for several reasons:
First, Whitebark Pine is a widespread species, and it is a keystone species. Dominating high-elevation forests, it lives in cold, windy, high-elevation or high-latitude sites in western North America. It also occurs in scattered areas of the warm and dry Great Basin (portions of California, Nevada, and Oregon).
Second, the species is in extreme decline. White pine blister rust, a non-native fungal disease, mountain pine beetles, climate change, and fire suppression all negatively affect the species’ health.
Third, despite the obvious effects of climate change on forests worldwide, Whitebark Pine is the first tree to be proposed for protection under the Endangered Species Act because of climate change, and it will not be the last.
Finally, in 2008, when the National Resources Defense Council filed their Petition to List the Whitebark Pine as an Endangered Species, studies showed that 80 percent of the Whitebark Pine forests in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem were already dead or dying, and for more than a decade had been in serious decline.
As a federally threatened species, protections for Whitebark Pine would include prohibiting the removal of Whitebark Pine from federal lands and prohibiting its import, export, and activities related to interstate and foreign commerce. The government did not designate critical habitat for Whitebark Pine.
The scope of the catastrophe for this widespread keystone species dramatically shows how apathy, climate change, and other human damage is destroying the life-support system of our country and planet. Plan to comment today!
The Federal Register
The Federal Register will accept comments received or postmarked on or before February 1, 2021. Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov. In the Search box, enter FWS-R6-ES-2019-0054, which is the docket number for this rulemaking.
The above was taken partially from the full story at NPCC News: Whitebark Pine Is First Tree to Be Listed Under Federal Endangered Species Act Due to Climate Change.