Whitebark Pine in the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness

Jesse Logan and William W. Macfarlane

Excerpt: Grizzly bears, humans and whitebark pine all colonized North American from Siberia. In fact, all three crossed the Bering Land Bridge sometime during the Pleistocene. Although it is easy to understand how highly mobile animals like grizzlies and humans were able to capitalize on an ephemeral event(s) like the opportunistic appearance of the Bering Land Bridge, it is difficult to understand how a tree might do the same. This journey, from Siberia to the Absaroka/Beartooth Wilderness, is a fascinating one, and one that involves not only grizzlies and humans but a vast array of other organisms, and the vary landscape itself.

Whitebark is both a keystone and a foundation species, and as such, these ancient forests serve not only to build ecosystems, but also to sustain them over the millennia. More recently, as a consequence of climate change and other human activities, the very survival of these ancient forests lie in jeopardy. As a result, the story of whitebark in the Absaroky/Beartooths is part creation myth, part epic survival, and has elements of tragedy. It is this story that follows.

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Jesse Logan

AB Atlas Associate and Map Editor Jesse Logan is a recognized authority on the condition of Greater Yellowstone's whitebark pine forests and the communities they support. After retiring in 2006 from a career in academia (Colorado State University and Virginia Tech.) and the US Forest Service (Rocky Mountain Research Station), he continues research and advocacy for high elevation ecosystems of the Greater Yellowstone. In summer he is a Contract Instructor for Yellowstone Forever, and is a backcountry ski guide during winter, working out of Cooke City, MT for Yellowstone Ski Tours and Beartooth Powder Guides.


William W. Macfarlane

Cartographer William (Wally) Macfarlane is an internationally renowned geographer/cartographer with experience ranging from Africa to the Himalayas. He also designed and conducted the only ecosystem wide aerial whitebark pine survey for the Greater Yellowstone. He is a Senior Researcher at the Ecogeomorphology and Topographic Analysis Lab, Utah State University. For more about Wally, please see https://sites.google.com/a/joewheaton.org/et-al/people/researchers-technicians/Wally