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Matt Skoglund’s Blog

Whitebark Country: A Photo Essay

Matt Skoglund

Posted July 8, 2009 in Saving Wildlife and Wild Places

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Yesterday, I wrote about my training day in the Gallatin Mountains with the Whitebark Pine Aerial Assessment Team.  Below are some pictures from that incredible, yet discouraging, day:

The Team going over equipment and protocol on Tom Miner Creek Road on our way to the B Bar Ranch, from where we started hiking.  You can see Packsaddle Peak in the background; it's just to the left of the high rocky bench in the center of the photo (Steamboat Mountain).  If you look closely, you can see that Packsaddle Peak is actually two peaks with a small dip between them -- just like a pack saddle.

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The Team sets out for Packsaddle Peak and whitebark country.

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The Team resting on a ridge, where we experimented with equipment and discussed the whitebark classification scheme (and drank some water and ate some food). 

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Dr. Jesse Logan, hatchet in hand, looking for mountain pine beetles and discussing the relationship between beetles and trees (and backcountry skiing and fly-fishing).  Note the light-colored "pitch tubes," which indicate a beetle attack.

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The eye of the storm: a mountain pine beetle in a whitebark pine.

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A mountain pine beetle on my hand.

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A MPB on the tip of my finger.

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A piece of bark and tree from a dying whitebark pine, which shows the tunnels -- called galleries -- that the beetles dig in the tree.

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The beetles bore through the bark to attack the tree.  Below are bore holes on the bark and galleries on the exposed part of the tree.

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An old pile of bear scat full of whitebark pine seeds, probably from last fall.  The loss of whitebark pine seeds as a food source for grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem will be disastrous. 

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Hope: a healthy whitebark pine.

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Despair: a dying whitebark pine.

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Louisa Willcox en route to the summit of Packsaddle Peak.

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Louisa's almost to the summit, now it's my turn to start climbing.

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Wally Macfarlane (left, holding GPS unit), Willie Kern, and Louisa on the summit, looking out at a sea of dead and dying trees.

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Jesse on the summit.

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Looking south from the summit at red trees and gorgeous peaks.

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Looking west from the summit at the same.  You can faintly see the Madison Range in the distance.

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Louisa and Jesse inspecting a soon-to-be-dead whitebark pine.

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Jesse, Colin Peacock, and Dena Adler on our descent.

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The Team, almost back to the trucks, intensely focused on hot pizza and cold beer at the Chico Saloon.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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