Bozeman event explores the future of whitebark pine restoration
Whitebark pine restoration in Yellowstone National Park, Glacier, and Grand Teton National Park is receiving $44 million from the Inflation Reduction Act.
Federal agencies, conservation groups and tribal leaders recently gathered in Bozeman at the Museum of the Rockies to view a new film about the imperiled tree species and to discuss how to save it.
In late September, the National Park Service and a national nonprofit, American Forests, announced a 5-year, multi agency partnership to bring whitebark pine back to areas where it once thrived.
Dr. Diana Tomback with the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation was one of the panelists speaking about the future of whitebark pine. She shared details on how the National Whitebark Pine Restoration Plan will guide restoration efforts.
“If we can restore 20-30 percent of whitebark pine in each of these jurisdictions whether it’s a forest service region or a national park or BLM, state, or tribal whitebark distribution this will serve as the center for dissemination,” he said.
Tomback says Clark's nutcrackers will visit those areas and the birds will spread the tree's seeds across the landscape. She says the birds can travel with seeds in their pouch for up to 20 miles.
Navajo Nation tribal member ShiNaasha Pete works on whitebark pine reforestation for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Forestry Department. She said success depends not only on growing trees that are resistant, but also educating young people.
“My fear now that I’m thinking is ok who's going to establish and continue these trees and help them continue going on with the clark's nutcracker as well in 80 years, in 100 years?” she said.
Pete says replanting whitebark pine is also linked to cultural restoration for Indigenous people.
“Whitebark pine was a first food for the Salish and Kootenai people as far as other tribal identities as well meaning it was an original diet for our ancestors, and so it’s important to keep that out there,” she said.
Panelists and attendees of the event in Bozeman viewed “The Bird and the Tree,” a new film about whitebark pine restoration produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Those visiting Yellowstone National Park this fall can see the film, which is currently screening at the visitor center at Canyon and in October will start playing at Old Faithful.