Magazine article American Forests

Whitebark Pine: Endangered but Not Protected

Magazine article American Forests

Whitebark Pine: Endangered but Not Protected

Article excerpt

In July, the whitebark pine was designated as a candidate For the endangered species list. After conducting further studies on the many threats this species is facing--including climate change--the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that whitebark pines could become extinct in two or three decades, with those in the Yellowstone area disappearing in as little as 10 years.

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Declaring the whitebark pine a candidate species is a huge step for the many conservation organizations, including American Forests, that have petitioned for the tree to receive governmental protection. However, this step is not enough. Because it is only a candidate, not a listed species, this decision does not afford the whitebark pine any additional protection or increase in funds for additional research or restoration. The species will be entitled to these benefits under the Endangered Species Act only when funding and resources become available. And with more than 700 candidate species, the wait for that help could be longer than it takes for the whitebark pine to go entirely extinct. So, despite the progress that has been made in finally bringing national attention to this vitally important tree, the acknowledgement that it is in fad in danger of extinction but will not be officially protected as such is a frustrating roadblock for organizations that have worked for years already to ensure that the tree and the ecosystems it supports can continue to survive.

As American Forests highlighted in a special report last year, whitebark pines are a key element in mountaintop ecosystems. …

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