Conservationists Work to Protect Whitebark Pine on Kettle Crest

In 2015, the Colville National Forest (CNF) signed the Whitebark Pine Enhancement Project decision that uses vegetation management, prescribed burning, and other methods to help improve growing conditions for whitebark pine on the Colville National Forest. Beginning in July, 2017, the CNF has partnered with the Kettle Range Conservation Group (KRCG) to help implement the project. Whitebark pine is an ecologically important tree species that inhabits the harshest subalpine locations and acts to prevent soil erosion, retain snowpack, and provide highly nutritious seeds to birds and bears. Unfortunately, whitebark pine is declining across its range from a combination of invasive blister rust, pine beetle infestation, and competition from shade tolerant conifers. These factors have impacted whitebark pine on the Colville National Forest where blister rust infects nearly half of the trees, and pine beetle infestations have become the primary agent for declines in larger trees. The KRCG, with the help of volunteers and contractors, has begun thinning around whitebark pines on Copper Butte in the Kettle River Range. Most whitebark pines in this area have been affected by increased competition from younger subalpine fir, and by cutting or girdling these younger trees, the whitebark pine will have increased growth and resiliency to pine beetles and other disturbances. To volunteer for this project or for more information contact Tim Coleman, Executive Director of the Kettle Range Conservation Group, at 509-775-2667. //

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