The Forest Service proposes planting about four acres in the Quartz Mountain area with 1,000 whitebark pine seedlings this September. These seedlings are from native stock and are thought to have some level of natural resistance to blister rust. Autumn rains should provide moisture for the newly planted seedlings. A crew of 10 workers would bring in seedlings, tools and overnight equipment on pack stock. Planting would take about two days, with one or two nights spent at an established campsite about three miles south of the US/Canadian border.
Large fires in 2002 consumed about 630 acres of Quartz Mountain whitebark pine habitat. In 2012, no tree seedlings were found on the former whitebark site and no cone bearing whitebark pine were present in or near the former stands. It is unlikely to regenerate naturally. This project is designed to establish a small island of live whitebark pine in the burned area in order to provide a future seed source and set the stage for long-term whitebark pine regeneration.
“The Quartz Mountain burned area is an ideal location for white bark pine restoration,” said Michael Liu, Methow Valley District Ranger. “There is a demonstrated need for reforestation. It is accessible from existing trails and packer campsite, and there are seedlings available that are suitable for the location.”
Whitebark pine grows at high elevation treelines and is found only in western North America. In northeast Washington, 75% of white bark pine habitat exists in designated Wilderness. Climate change models predict that the Pasayten Wilderness has a high likelihood of retaining the harsh environments that favor whitebark pine.
Whitebark pine ecosystems maintain watershed quality by stabilizing soils and providing shade that slows spring snow melt. Furthermore, the seeds of whitebark pine are an important food source for Clark's nutcrackers, pine squirrels, grizzly and black bears, as well as many other birds and mammals.
Natural whitebark pine regeneration is dependent on the seed-caching habits of Clark's nutcracker but since the primary objective of Clark's nutcrackers caching seeds is to eat them, they are an inefficient seed disperser. Whitebark pine is declining faster than the Clark's nutcracker can keep up.
This Project will be analyzed in an environmental assessment, consistent with the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act. Public involvement is an important part of the process.
If you have any questions, or would like more information about this project, contact Connie Mehmel, Project Leader, at (509) 664-9213. Feedback on the project can also be sent to the Methow Valley Ranger District Attention: Quartz Mountain Whitebark Pine Planting, 24 West Chewuch Road Winthrop, Washington, 98862 or emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org.