Enviros sue FWS over whitebark pine protections
Written byROB CHANEY, Missoulian/GW
The whitebark pine, a tree that produces protein-rich seeds that grizzly bears and other animals feed on, is disappearing from the northern Rocky Mountains. Two Montana groups, the Alliance for the Wild Rockies and the WildWest Institute, are suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and accusing the agency of stalling efforts to protect the trees.
The groups filed suit Tuesday against FWS Director Dan Ashe and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in Missoula District Court. Their complaint points out that other environmental groups had sought endangered species protection for the trees in 1991 and again in 2008. FWS declared the tree "warranted but precluded" from protection in 2011.
"People who spend time in the high country realize that whitebark pine are dying at alarming rates due to impacts associated with climate change," WildWest Executive Director Matthew Koehler said. "We cannot sit back, do nothing and watch a critically important component of our high-country ecosystem just disappear and go extinct before our eyes. This isn't just about the whitebark pine, but about the future viability of these high-country ecosystems, including the species that rely upon that habitat such as grizzly bears and Clark's nutcrackers."