Wyo. research trial looks into pine blister rust
LARAMIE, Wyo. — A research project underway at Pole Mountain Work Center in the Medicine Bow National Forest might help slow the spread of white pine blister rust, which is killing trees across the West.
As part of the Southern Rockies Rust Resistance Trial, more than 700 limber pine and bristlecone pine seedlings were planted at the work center in August. Some of the trees were selected because they have resistance to the disease, while others are thought to be susceptible.
They’ll all be exposed to white pine blister rust in hopes that the resistant ones will prove their immunity outside a laboratory setting, paving the way for growing more.
“It’s very critical for future management of different species of white pines,” Laramie Ranger District forester Sara Alberts said.
White pine blister rust is a non-native pathogen that came to North America from Asia. It affects members of the five-needle pine group, also called white pines, which include limber pine and bristlecone pine. In northwest Wyoming, the rust affects whitebark pine, a critical food source for grizzly bears that is especially threatened.
The disease has spread to 38 states and has been found in the Pole Mountain area for the last 20 years.