Feds to consider endangered status for whitebark pine

Critical pine in grizzly nutrition is in steep decline. May get endangered listing-

Whitebark pine is in dire straights and it may well get on the endangered species list, but what then?  How do you save a tree so beset with disease and insect attacks with an ESA listing?

Story in the LA Times. Feds to consider endangered status for whitebark. By Mead Gruver. Associated Press Writer.

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I have been doing a lot of backcountry traveling this summer, and while I have written numerous posts about pine beetle attacks, not just the whitebark pine, almost all Western pines are in serious trouble, mostly from insect attacks. Winters too warm are causing vast proliferation of the pine bark beetle, killing pine forests, especially the much more abundant lodgepole pine from the Yukon south to New Mexico.  In some places like northern Colorado, 95% of the lodgepole is now dead.  It seems to me that it will be a short time until most pines will be functionally extinct, even though some may persist in highly protected enclosures.

Spruce, Douglas fir, true firs, and other conifers are not under such attack, but the lodgepole is a huge component of the fish, wildlife, watershed and scenery of the Rocky Mountains. Like the whitebark pine, it is hard to think of any effective large scale human effort to conserve these forests.

Bark beetle infested mountain at Lower Slide Lake, WY. Although the mountain looks fairly green, most of the lodgepole on it are turning red. In two or three years the entire character of the mountains will be changed. Copyright Ralph Maughan July 19, 2010

Pine-beetle epidemic changes debate over logging Montana’s forests

Will it increase support for salvage logging?

Of course it will!

Will it increase support for Tester’s Wilderness plus logging bill? Yes!

Will there actually be an increase in salvage logging? Hard to say.

Some points needs to be made. First, this beetle epidemic is not just a Montana thing. It extends from the Yukon nearly to Mexico among pine trees. Logging of green trees to get ahead of beetle infestation is hopeless. It hasn’t worked anywhere in Canada or the United States because this is an extraordinary event fueled by a series of warm winters.

Secondly you can offer the dead trees for sale, but the timber operator needs to make a profit.  They are presently trying to ramp up the salvage in Canada and the United States.  If demand for a product is stable, an increase in the supply drives down the price. The price offered for lumber or chips from dead pine is already low because of the depressed economy. A ramp up of logging will drive the price still lower.

These salvage sales might find no one who will log them. Fortunately, dead lodgepole pine, left standing, does not deteriorate nearly as fast as dead spruce or fir, so some of these might still be worthwhile 5 years from now.

Finally, these dead forests will not necessarily all burn. Dead pine burns like gasoline while it still wears its dead red needles, but after they drop, the fire danger goes down rapidly in many stands. However, when they topple over in the wind on top of each other, the fire danger goes up again.

Pine-beetle epidemic changes debate over logging Montana’s forests. By Jennifer McKee. Missoulian State Bureau

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Here is George Wuerthner’s interesting and detailed  essay, which I mentioned and others too in the comments.

It turns out that yesterday there was an essay in Writers on the Range about the big beetle kill in Colorado. Folks, including editorial writers, need to understand that this is not a Montana beetle kill or a Colorado beetle kill. It is a continental beetle kill.