Episode 7 - Dr. Jesse Logan, Part 1
Louisa Willcox speaks with Dr. Jesse Logan who blew the whistle on the threat to whitebark pine, a key grizzly bear food, from mountains pine beetle and global warming long before anyone else had imagined it. He tells the amazing story of predicting and then documenting the tragic loss of a magnificent forest in Greater Yellowstone, and using his knowledge to help in the fight to restore legal protections to the Yellowstone grizzly bear. Jesse is a forest ecologist, climate expert and outdoorsman extraordinaire, who in his 70's can still kick your ass in the woods.
"The then director of the Insect Forest and Disease Research Unit just wanted to know why I was spending all this money for expensive instrumentation working in an ecosystem where mountain pine beetle really didn’t occur and it wasn’t a problem. I didn’t have a really good answer for that. I just said, "Well, I think we got some interesting stuff that might happen.'"
"…in the spring of 2003, we crested over the top and in this beautiful whitebark forest where there had been solid green -- there was no evidence of mountain pine beetle mortality -- all of the sudden there were these brilliant red trees showing up. And mountain pine beetle kills the tree in one summer, and the following summer they turn this very obvious red. So, there’s no mistaking the sign of mountain pine beetle. And my first thought was, "Oh shit man, it’s happening.'"
"And in the next four or five years, all across the ecosystem, whitebark was just collapsing. And it’s very obvious -- to see these trees turn a brilliant red and fully the needles die, it’s so obvious to anyone who’s looking."
"…the 2007 (delisting) rule, it was just egregiously flawed with respect to the evaluation of what was going on in whitebark pine… We found that more like 95 percent of the whitebark had experienced some level of mortality rather than the 16 percent that was claimed in the delisting rule."
"Providing an essential food resource for grizzlies is important, but it's only one of the many things that whitebark, as both a foundation and keystone species, provides for this ecosystem."
"So we have three things that have happened over a really short period of time: the ’88 fires, the unprecedented bark beetle outbreak that started in 2003 and is continuing, and this increasing level of blister rust infection."
Ecology of Place: Mountain Pine Beetle, Whitebark Pine, and Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem: WFIWC Founders Award, 2009, Dr Jesse Logan.
In the Rockies, Pine Dies and Bears Feel It, Charles Petit, New York Times, 2007
Global Warming's Unlikely Harbingers, Michelle Niijhuis, High Country News, 2004
The Scrambled Natural World of Global Warming, Washington State Magazine, Winter 2014