The Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) made a "warranted but precluded" finding (PDF) for the whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis).  This finding means that the Service has determined that the whitebark pine should be listed, but that it will not currently list the species because there are other higher priority species in the queue and there is a lack of funding.  Therefore, the Service has added the whitebark pine to its candidates species list and will develop a proposed rule to list the species as priorities and funding allow. 

As we previously reported, the Natural Resources Defense Council sued the Service in March 2010 to act on a 2008 petition to list the species.  In July 2010, the Service made a 90-day finding that listing the species may be warranted. 

The trees are being harmed by a disease known as white pine blister rust, as well as by beetles and climate change.  The Service found that the primary threat to the species is from the white pine blister rust, which is nearly ubiquitous throughout the range of the species and results in the mortality of a majority of infected individuals, with all age classes of the trees being susceptible.  Warmer climates have facilitated large outbreaks of the mountain pine beetle, which feeds on the whitebark pine.  Climate change and warmer temperatures will also decrease suitable habitat for the species.

The Service assigned the whitebark pine a Listing Priority Number of 2 based on its finding that the species faces threats that are of high magnitude and imminent.  This is the highest priority number that can be provided to a species.