WHITEFISH — Whitefish Mountain Resort is a host to an endangered species of pine tree, the whitebark pine.
US Forest Service (USFS) teams took to the summit of the resort on Thursday to plant over 400 seedlings.
“We have more mortality than anywhere else within the range where up to 90% of the trees are dead in some places,” said retired USFS viticulturist Melissa Jenkins.
Jenkins explained there are many factors as to why the endangered tree species is in decline, from pine beetles to wildfires, and also a virus.
“White pine blister rust. It was introduced pathogen that came on seedlings we imported from Europe around the turn of the century,” said Jenkins.
Whitebark pines are the highest elevation pine tree which makes it vital for a fruitful environment for animals and even insects.
“It's called the keystone species, or a foundational species, which means without it being there to ecosystems, unravel and don't function correctly,” said Jenkins.
Whitebark pine grows in adverse conditions -- something USFS culturist Karl Anderson relates to.
“It's always at the top of a mountain, you know, so you get the great views and weather can be a challenge but you know that’s what the whitebark pine likes you know, it likes extreme conditions and so we go wherever they're hanging out and we try to help them along,” said Anderson.
Whitefish Mountain Resort was one of the first whitebark pine-friendly ski areas.
It's also just one of 14 locations in the Flathead National Forest from the Swan Valley to the Canadian border where the US Forest Service collects seeds.
The seedlings being planted Thursday were from three years ago right on top of the resort.