“The forest isn’t destroyed. It’s still a forest. It’s just a different forest than we’ve ever seen,” said Bill Crapser.
What we do know is there are foresters who say that by removing beetle-killed lodgepole pine, for instance, we can make way for a diversity of trees in those areas currently occupied by one single species. The current forest management plan for the Medicine Bow emphasizes silvicultural practices, which control the establishment, growth, and health of the forest to support desired future conditions. The plan also focuses on how these conditions might include younger stands and increased species, which over time will support resistivity to bark beetle infestation.
For millennia, whitebark pine trees have held firm to the cold, rocky timberlines of the northern Rockies, Cascades and Sierra Nevada, providing shelter, food and other ecosystem services for mountain wildlife. But before long, the hardy, snow-battered tree whose nutritionally dense seeds are a delicacy for grizzly bears, red squirrels and mountain birds may become functionally extinct. In numerous reaches of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and southern Canada, whitebark pine trees have declined by as much as 90 percent, experts say, and their prospects for recovery seem to be growing dimmer by the year.