Whitebark pine preservation and recovery on Scotchman Peak in the National Forest Foundation Treasured Landscape was given two big boosts thanks to the NFF and efforts of Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness (FSPW) volunteers in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service. The Scotchman whitebark population has been hurt by blister rust, mountain pine beetles and competition from shade-loving trees. In addition, many mature trees were killed by wildfire in 2015.
In 2016, Forest Service personnel and FSPW volunteers climbed the peak with SPLAT (Specialized Pheromone and Lure Application Technology), verbenone and mastic applied with calking guns filled to mature trees to protect them from the pine beetle. The presence of verbenone is a natural deterrent, basically telling beetle passers-by that the tree is “full.” Four FSPW volunteers and two staff supplemented Forest Service staff with 60 hours of volunteer time for this project.
Whitebark pine is a keystone species and important food source for birds and mammals in high elevations, particularly Clark’s nutcrackers and grizzly bears. Clark’s nutcrackers in particular have a symbiotic relationship with the tree, storing seeds in caches averaging three or four seeds. A single nutcracker may bury as many as 98,000 kernels per season, many of which are not recovered and potentially sprout as new trees. The bird perpetuates its own habitat.
In 2017, FSPW volunteers and Forest Service personnel led by Sandpoint District botanist Jennifer Costich-Thompson planted two pounds of seeds, each containing about 2300 kernels, on trips in July and October over approximately 30 acres, much of which burned over in 2015.
In September of 2018, Mike Giesey, a recently retired silviculturist from Kootenai National Forest and board member of the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation, led a hike through whitebark stands on Scotchman and presented information about whitebark pine regarding habitat needs and current threats. Mike also discussed restoration efforts that the Forest Service, NFF, FSPW and Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation are engaged in.
Friends of Scotchman Peaks is proud to have received the NFF grant that made this work possible, as well as helping with other projects on the Idaho Panhandle National Forest.