with Alexandra Ellerbeck
In an unexpected decision, the Trump administration announced that a lethal fungus, a rapacious beetle and even a changing climate jeopardize the survival of an iconic tree of the American West.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is set to propose Wednesday listing the whitebark pine as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Granting federal protections to the tree is a “watershed decision,” said Diana Tomback, professor of integrative biology at the University of Colorado at Denver who has studied the tree for decades.
The whitebark pine’s habitat spans over 80 million acres across seven states and Canada. In its official filing, the agency acknowledged that rising temperatures are pushing the high-elevation tree’s habitat up to higher altitudes, hurting the chances of survival for a pine whose nutritious seeds provide sustenance for everything from red squirrels to black bears.