2015 Operational Seed Collection in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE)

General Project Information

Project Title: Operational Seed Collection in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE)

Project Dates: 2015

Year project implementation started:

How many more years is this project expected to continue, if any?

Project Contact: (Please provide complete information for primary contact(s), e.g., name, position, phone number, email, agency name, unit/sub-unit)

Kelly McCloskey (Kelly_McCloskey@nps.gov), Grand Teton National Park, 307.739.3678

Nancy Bockino (Nancy_Bockino@nps.gov), Grand Teton National Park, 307.690.1683

Location (Land management agency or ownership and name of geographic area(s) where project was implemented. This information should be specific enough to identify a general project location on a map but not specific enough to compromise the project.)

Activities funded by this proposal would take place on the Bridger-Teton, Caribou-Targhee and Shoshone National Forests and in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

The Greater Yellowstone/Grand Teton Seed Zone (GYGT) including:  Beaverhead-Deerlodge NF, Bridger-Teton NF, Caribou-Targhee NF, Custer NF, Gallatin NF, Grand Teton NP, Shoshone NF, and Yellowstone NP.

Cooperators: (List cooperating agencies and sub-units, other companies/organizations, and individuals as needed.)


Project Funding

Funding Sources (amount FHP/amount other incl. in-kind):

Forest Health Protection funding                   $20,000

Other funding                                               $  2,000

Total                                                            $22,000

Did Whitebark Restoration funding get used or obligated? (If not, please explain.) Yes


Project Details

Scope and/or Size of Project or Treated Area: (Include a short description of the project or treatment area if helpful in understanding the scope of the project.)

Conditions in whitebark pine ecosystems resulting from unprecedented mountain pine beetle activity, white pine blister rust infection, and altered climate conditions are placing this foundation species in a precarious state. Specifically, temperature driven shifts in mountain pine beetle life cycles has resulted in intensification of bark beetles within their historic range and unprecedented situations in high elevation ecosystems (Logan & Powell 2001). During the summer of 2009, aerial evaluation at a sub-watershed level documented the spatial extent and severity of whitebark pine damage from mountain pine beetle outbreaks across the entire GYA. Data from this project indicates that over 50% of whitebark stands in the GYA have already suffered high to complete mortality of overstory trees and 95% of forest stands containing whitebark pine have measurable mountain pine beetle activity (MacFarlane et al. 2009). In addition, the non-native pathogen blister rust decreases whitebark pine recruitment potential by extensive damage to cone bearing branches, seedlings, and saplings (Tomback et al. 1995). Blister rust infection rates and distribution are continuing to increase in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA; Bockino 2008).

Efforts supporting the Tree Improvement & Restoration Program are ongoing and all units within the GYA have participated for multiple years since 2001.The principle component of the program is the identification, designation, and protection of phenotypically rust resistant whitebark pine that will potentially provide rust resistant seed sources for the GYGT seed zone. These trees are referred to as “plus trees”. Cones from these trees are collected, the seeds removed and germinated. These seedlings are then inoculated with blister rust aeciospores from locations within the seed zone. Seed from the GYGT seed source has been collected over the last seven years and the rust screening process began in the fall of 2007 by the regional geneticists. Inoculation of whitebark pine seedlings grown from designated plus trees from the GYGT seed zone began in 2010 and the first rust resistance screening was completed in 2014. Results of this work are currently used to direct target areas for cone collections. Rust resistance screenings are ongoing and additional results will further direct seed collection.

Collections will be made from whitebark pine on portions of the GYE where cones are available within areas designated by Mary Mahalovich.

Number of Acres or Other Units Treated, Monitored, or Surveyed:

Specific location of project or treated area(s): (If desired, add more specific project location information here, e.g., UTMs, Lat-long, specific landmark. Otherwise, indicate if more information is available by request.)

Objective(s) (from original request):

The objective of this project was to fund collection of whitebark pine seed within the Greater Yellowstone-Grand Teton (GYGT) seed zone to be used for tree planting on sites identified in the 2011 Whitebark Pine Strategy for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) and 2014 Whitebark Pine Five-Year Plan. Cones will be collected from throughout the GYE and seed shared among all units.

  • There is a range of stated restoration goals and therefore seed collection needs in the GYE. Planting goals range from: 1) From the Action Plan in the Whitebark Strategy (GYCC 2011): 30,000 seedlings or 100-150 acres per year; 2) From 10-year Seed Procurement Plans updated 2011: 1,219 acres per year; to 3) Regional geneticist, Mary Frances Mahalovich suggests that maintenance of whitebark pine in the GYGT seed zone would require planting 400,000 seedlings or 2,000 acres per year for the next 18 years. To meet this third goal of 2,000 acres planted per year, 312 pounds of seed are needed per year if trees are planted at 200 TPA, and 465 pounds of seed are needed per year if trees are planted at 300 TPA (which is recommended).
  • The current (May 2014) seed inventory for the GYE is approximately 700 pounds of seed, which is enough to plant 2,990 acres at 300 TPA and 4,480 acres at 200 TPA. A significant amount of seed was collected during 2014 and the pounds of seed are not included in the inventory at this time. This information will be available in the coming months. The most recent planting recommendation is 300 TPA which should result in survival of 100 TPA.  To meet current planting goals in the GYE, operational seed collections must be made whenever a cone crop is available.
  • There is an average of 75 seeds per cone in a bumper year and an individual tree collection (ranging from 47 to 100 cones) results in about 1 to 1.5 pounds of seed. One pound of seed produces approximately 3,500 seeds (or 1,281 seedlings), and thus enough seedlings to plant about 6.4 acres (at 200 TPA) or 4.3 acres (at 300 TPA).
  • Estimated seed needs by elevation for the GYGT Seed Zone, National Forest Units for the next 5 and 10 years:


Elevation (feet) Immediate 5-Year Need (pounds) Estimated Planting Next 10 Years (acres)
7501-8000 32 Derby Fire – 230
8001-8500 52 Eureka Fire – 200

North Hebgen Project – 200

BT – 207

8501-9000 239 Eureka Fire – 1800

Millie Fire – 219

BT – 291

9001-9500 161 Eureka Fire – 100

Purdy Fire – 315

Greater Greybull – 550

Burroughs Creek – 600

Millie Fire, Buck Ridge MPB – 212

BT – 590

9501-10,000 81 Purdy Fire – 100

Blue Ridge – 125

BT – 400

>10,000 16 Blue Ridge – 125
Total 581 Pounds 6264 Acres

Planting: (Please answer the following questions if the project includes plantings or cone collections.)

Number of seedlings planted (list by location if applicable): N/A

Was the seed source screened for resistance? (If other, explain.)

Seed source trees were all from rust resistant individuals (some of which are Plus Trees) or areas as designated by Regional Geneticist, Mary Mahalovich.

Were Plus trees used? Yes


Operational cone collections were successfully made from 53 whitebark pine on 5 of 7 administrative units from a variety of elevation zones in the GYE. Approximately 1-2 bushels per tree were collected and shipped to the CDA Nursery including cone handling checklists and documentation. These seeds are shared among all administrative units throughout the GYE.

Project Status (Is the project complete? If not, what remains to be accomplished and when?:

Successfully completed.

Will outcome meet objectives? Yes


Project Follow-Up

Are there plans for monitoring or follow-up? (If not, please explain.)

Follow up on cone collections will include checking with CDA nursery to make sure cone handling checklists were completed properly. Cones will be cleaned, seeds will be germination tested, and stored at CDA.

Changes Needed or Problems Encountered: None