Klamath National Forest Whitebark Pine

Mapping and monitoring Pinus albicaulis

For the better part of July I was contracted by the Forest Service Region 5, in a partnership with the CNPS Vegetation Program, to follow up with our 2013 work mapping and monitoring whitebark pine in the north state. I visited numerous sites where I predicted Pinus albicaulis might occur to conduct surveys and improve our state-wide range map for the species. Overall, the health of the species in northern California is in slow decline due to a variety of factors including mountain pine beetle, white pine blister rust, global climate change, and recent high intensity fires. In an earlier post, I shared some highlights from the Modoc National Forest, this post shares  images and highlights from Klamath National Forest whitebark pine work.

Goosenest Ranger District

This region is east of Interstate 5 and north of Mount Shasta. It consists of isolated volcanoes which, if over about 7500′ will hold small stands of whitebark pine. I visted two of the district’s highlights to look for trees–Goosenest and Willow Creek Mountain. In between these two peaks is the spectacular Little Shasta Meadow Botanical Area.

Whitebark pines on the Goosenest Ranger District.

Overall, trees here are doing well though there is evidence of mountain pine beetle kill in some areas–though much smaller in scale that was seen on the Modoc around 2009.

Looking south from the Goosenest toward Mount Shasta.
Klamath National Forest Whitebark Pine
The crater on the summit of Goosenest Mountain is flush with whitebark pine.
Little Shasta Meadow Research Natural Area with Goosenest and Mount Shasta in the background.
Whitebark pine on Willow Creek Mountain.

Salmon/Scott River Ranger District

I visited three different regions on four backpacking trips to survey this area. The mountain tops are remote and often only accessible via 4WD and/or long hikes. But, this is the Klamath Mountains, my favorite place on Earth, so every arduous mile traveled was a joy.

China Mountain
Klamath National Forest Whitebark Pine
The view east from China Mountain with Mount Shasta in the distance.
On the south-facing high elevation slopes, whitebark pine mortality from mountain pine beetles was as high as 40% with foxtail pine mortality as high as 20%. White pine blister rust was also present.
Crater Creek Research Natural Area.
Russian Wilderness
Whitebark pine stand above Bingham Lake in the southern Russian Wilderness.
View down Russian Creek.
Marble Mountains — Shackleford Trailhead
On the hike in, I met a group of travelling artists from Signal Fire and discussed Klamath Forest ecology and diversity.
The first stand we visited is along the Pacific Crest Trail above Man Eaten Lake. The ~3 acres of trees have seen >70% mortality in the past few years due to bark beetles and the impacts of a fire that raced up the slope and killed most of these trees.
A view of the same stand mentioned above looking north.
Impacts from the high intensity fire in Wooley Creek (left drainage) is evident from above the Pacific Crest Trail.
The second stand we visited is just above Gem and Jewel lakes and approximately 2 acres in size. This stand has seen significant mortality (50%) in the past 10 years due to bark beetles. You can see the gap in the trees in the center right of the picture where many more whitebark pine once were.
A scraggly, old whitebark pine above Shackleford Creek in the Marble Mountain Wilderness.
Marble Mountains — Boulder Peak
Along the extensive, high elevation Boulder Peak ridgeline mortality from mountain pine beetle is approaching 30% in whitebark pines and 15% in foxtail pines.
A view of Boulder Peak and the high elevation pine habitat on the northeast Marble Mountains.
Back to the car and out of the smoke — summer adventures in the mountains are a wrap.

9 Replies to “Klamath National Forest Whitebark Pine”

  1. Good to see some fairly healthy stands in the pics. In my part of the world — N. Rockies — appears there’s a lot higher WB mortality, especially in ranges and portions of ranges in more significant precip shadows.

  2. fascinating pics of places we have visited. Fire damage to Wooley Creek and Man Eaten areas are striking. Enjoyed closing pic of meadow and smoke. Thank you for sharing your good work

  3. Thanks for sharing Michael. In my experience, usually, where there has been fire – there are felled whitebark pine by fire crews…..just another mortality agent.

  4. Thanks Michael, nice article and great pictures. There have been a couple surveys (specifically by M. Murray) and I know there are a couple individuals on Mt. Ashland in Oregon but its missing from most of the potential habitat, have you had a chance to survey further west in the Siskiyous and Red Buttes Wilderness? In the RRS NF there are a couple of known stands on Brown Mtn and Mr Mcloughlin, but I think that’s it? Your hard work is appreciated

    1. Josh- I have seen the small clusters of trees on Mount Ashland and talked to Michael (and others) about them. Really interesting that they are there. I have surveyed further west across the Siskyiou Crest and they are not further west then what we surveyed in summer 2018. Seems their distribution is limited by the large “feeder” populations on Boulder Peak, Mount Eddy, etc. I have mostly complete GIS layers for Northern California if you are interested.

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