Many wildlife SGCN in Wyoming use lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) forests during part or all of their life cycle. Simultaneously, Wyoming and adjacent states are experiencing a mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) epidemic at an unprecedented scale. Experts forecast that 95% to 100% of Wyoming’s lodgepole pine will be dead within the next five years (Clint Kyle, USFS, personal communication). These broad-scale changes necessitate an understanding of how lodgepole-inhabiting SGCN in Wyoming will be impacted in the interim prior to lodgepole regeneration in order to gauge conservation risk and prioritize WGFD and other agency action plans.
Some lodgepole-inhabiting SGCN populations are likely to experience local extirpation during the pine beetle epidemic. However, populations adjacent to other coniferous stand types that are less affected by D. ponderosae, such as spruce-fir, may be able to utilize those stands as spatial/temporal refugia. SGCN populations in such refugia could then persist and serve as source populations following lodgepole regeneration. Determining the extent to which spruce-fir forests will be able to serve as refugia during the current beetle epidemic would therefore provide important information towards determining the status, population trajectories and management of Wyoming’s lodgepole SGCN.