Image 1 of 1

KRL2017-5.jpg

Add to Cart Add to Lightbox
Windswept snags cling to an exposed ridge near Granite Butte high along the Continental Divide in Southwest Montana in the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest. These ghostly figures cast their shadow beside one of their few living offspring - a Whitebark Pine - as a storm leaves us with a farewell and potentially symbolic rainbow.
.
Whitebark pine grows at the highest treeline elevations in the western United States. They are considered a keystone species - many other animals and plants in this area largely depend on the food and shelter these trees provide. And that poses a problem - whitebark pines are dying at alarming rates and could be extinct soon. The slow-growing, bonsai-like pine can reach ages up to 500 to 1000 years old, yet few examples can be found these days.
.
The culprit: a tree disease with Asian origins, called blister rust infects the trees causing widespread mortality. Combined with recent drought and pine beetle insect outbreaks, the specie has seen massive declines. Finally, since the trees thrive in cold and deep snow, climate change threatens to throw a final blow. The decline of the whitebark can be felt throughout the entire Rocky Mountains. Its disappearance has directly impacted over 20 animals and birds that require the tree's nutritious seeds to survive. The impact of the tree's decline cannot be understated. So much so, it is currently being proposed to be listed under the Endangered Species Act.
.
However, there might be a pot of gold at the end of THIS rainbow high atop THIS windy ridge tonight: the stands of whitebark pine near the location of this photograph are part of an ongoing effort to help save this specie. The whitebark pines found atop Granite Butte are highly valued because they have superior genetics and resilience to blister rust. Pine cones from these trees are being collected and used to raise nursery stock for the U.S. Forest Service's whitebark pine restoration program.
Copyright
© Kevin League
Image Size
5982x3993 / 4.0MB
Contained in galleries
Helena Montana Area
Windswept snags cling to an exposed ridge near Granite Butte high along the Continental Divide in Southwest Montana in the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest. These ghostly figures cast their shadow beside one of their few living offspring - a Whitebark Pine - as a storm leaves us with a farewell and potentially symbolic rainbow.<br />
.<br />
Whitebark pine grows at the highest treeline elevations in the western United States. They are considered a keystone species - many other animals and plants in this area largely depend on the food and shelter these trees provide. And that poses a problem - whitebark pines are dying at alarming rates and could be extinct soon. The slow-growing, bonsai-like pine can reach ages up to 500 to 1000 years old, yet few examples can be found these days.<br />
.<br />
The culprit: a tree disease with Asian origins, called blister rust infects the trees causing widespread mortality. Combined with recent drought and pine beetle insect outbreaks, the specie has seen massive declines. Finally, since the trees thrive in cold and deep snow, climate change threatens to throw a final blow. The decline of the whitebark can be felt throughout the entire Rocky Mountains. Its disappearance has directly impacted over 20 animals and birds that require the tree's nutritious seeds to survive. The impact of the tree's decline cannot be understated. So much so, it is currently being proposed to be listed under the Endangered Species Act.<br />
.<br />
However, there might be a pot of gold at the end of THIS rainbow high atop THIS windy ridge tonight: the stands of whitebark pine near the location of this photograph are part of an ongoing effort to help save this specie. The whitebark pines found atop Granite Butte are highly valued because they have superior genetics and resilience to blister rust. Pine cones from these trees are being collected and used to raise nursery stock for the U.S. Forest Service's whitebark pine restoration program.