Hal Herring has written a story that brings a whole new perspective to the childlike practice of climbing trees. In a new feature for High Country News (subscription required, but worth it), he writes first-hand about getting up into the branches of Montana's whitebark pines in order to save them.
Chances are pretty good you've already read about how pine beetles are killing lodgepole pines throughout the West. Herring notes the beetles are an even bigger threat to whitebarks. It's so bad the U.S. Fish & WIldlife Service ruled the tree meets the criteria for protection under the Endangered Species Act, yet it can't afford to formally list them as threatened. The agency has been forced to explore other options.
As part of this effort, tree-climbers are paid to fan out in the high-elevation forests, harvesting whitebark pinecones so that the seeds can be used to grow new stands of whitebarks in U.S. Forest Service nurseries. So far, the rate of new planting doesn't come close to replacing the rapidly dying whitebark forests, but it's a start.
Read Herring's full story here.
Whitebark photo by Chad Harder