We’ve seen GPS tracking systems being used for some very unusual purposes, but this is the first time we’ve seen GPS used to help save the environment, and in this case – trees. Foresters in Jackson, Wyoming, have decided they will begin using GPS to track the damage to whitebark pine trees being killed by beetles. U.S. Forest Service officials are using a budget of $150,00 to start the survey of beetle damage in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. The forest officially contains about 400,000 acres of whitebark pine, but the species has begin to decline due to beetle attacks. The process will begin with mapping through an aerial survey, with the survey then being used to map the pine population and to help lay out the area that will be used for the GPS. This work should be completed by next spring. Foresters specifically want to know where the damage is worst, and why some pockets of pines appear to be unaffected.
Damage needs to be determined because the whitebark pine is essential to the ecosystem of the forest. It provides food for the species of the Bridger-Teton and serves as a huge asset to its watersheds.
Bridger-Teton program manager Liz Davy calls the whitebark pine a “keystone species” and says, “It’s very important in our ecosystem.”