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Know the West

The environmentalists' whitebark pine air force


In the summer of 2009, the Natural Resources Defense Council and EcoFlight conducted a comprehensive aerial survey to assess the damage mountain pine beetles were causing in whitebark pine forests in the Yellowstone National Park region. They devised a Landscape Assessment System -- a low-flying airplane using "geo-tagged oblique aerial photography to assess the cumulative mortality at the sub-watershed level." They found the beetles have a far greater impact than the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had estimated (for details, see sidebar about the “ragtag team” at left).

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A 'ragtag team' of scientists, rangers and citizens works to save whitebarks