-news-whitbark-pineThe public is invited to comment on a U.S. Forest Service proposal to plant whitebark pine this fall on Quartz Mountain in the Pasayten Wilderness, north of Winthrop.

The Forest Service plans to plant 1,000 whitebark pine seedlings on about four acres in an area where the species existed before the trees were killed in the 2002 Quartz Mountain Fire.

The project is designed to establish a small island of live whitebark pine in the burned area in order to provide a future seed source and set the stage for long-term whitebark pine regeneration.

“In order to maintain whitebark pine on Quartz Mountain, as well as on the greater landscape, there is a need to improve the future seed pool within the area burned by the Quartz Mountain Fire,” said Methow Valley District Ranger Michael Liu.

Whitebark pine is a high-elevation species that is found only in western North America, and primarily in designated wilderness areas, according to the Forest Service. It is capable of establishing unique ecosystems in harsh subalpine environments, creating habitat for a myriad of other species.

The trees serve an important role in maintaining watershed quality by helping to stabilize soils and providing shade to slow spring snow melt. The seeds of the whitebark pine are an important food source for Clark’s nutcrackers, pine squirrels, grizzly and black bears, and many other birds and mammals.

Additional information about the proposed project is available by contacting Connie Mehmel, Project Lead, at (509) 664-9213 or at 1133 N. Western Ave., Wenatchee, WA 98801. The preliminary Environmental Assessment and a map of the project area are also available online at www.fs.fed.usda.gov/goto/okawen/projectsw.

Feedback on the project can also be sent to: Methow Valley Ranger District, attention: Quartz Mountain Whitebark Pine Planting, 24 W. Chewuch Road, Winthrop, WA 98862, or emailed to comments-pacificnorthwest-okanogan-methowvalley@fs.fed.us.