Replacing Packets Replacing Packets

Shrub Sherpas

  • July 21, 2014
  • Posted by Melanie Hobgood

After two weeks of interpretive ranger training and countless presentations, we were finally doing it. We were working our way up the Mt. Henry trail, hauling Whitebark Pines to a high elevation site.

Yeah, that’s right. I got to hike up 7,000 feet, across a beautiful pass, admiring sweeping views, to deliver trees. It’s hard work but someone’s got to do it.

We had been working on smaller projects around West Glacier with the national park’s re-vegetation crew earlier in the week, but now we were doing what we’d first pictured doing in GNP. The steep hike, the semi-heavy pack, the beautiful weather – this hitch had it all.

Just past Scenic Point, Glacier’s re-vegetation team would replant them in an area they’d naturally grown, now decimated by the white pine blister rust. The rust, a non-native fungus, was introduced by humans and has been devastating white pines ever since.

In addition to being shrub Sherpas, the reveg team gave us GPS’s to track down certain trees and attach new packets of verbenone, an organic compound used to ward off mountain pine beetles. The pheromones in verbenone tricks the beetles into believing the tree already has a colony, so the beetles move on.

Between blister rust, beetles, climate change and fire suppression, the native trees of Glacier National Park face dangers every day, threatening to wipe out their species. While it may not seem like we did a lot, we did all you can: a little at a time.

There’s something about these high up, hidden away places that make you see the world around you differently. Thousands of visitors walk the same trail, but they won’t see the more-secluded area we were in. They will see the expansive, wild landscape - the mountains and valleys, the snow and rock – but they won’t see the smaller picture that makes up the bigger picture. They won’t see the fragile alpine ecosystem just off the beaten path. They won’t realize just how delicate the region is.

So this is what I learned on my Glacier National Park reveg hitch – to stop and slow down. Realize every piece of nature when you’re in it. Recognize the relationships taking place in the world around you. You might be surprised by what you learn.


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