Disease resistant OR, WA whitebark pines tested

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Biologists say they hope they can breed a disease resistant version of the whitebark pine, a tree found at high altitudes in the West.

Oregon Public Broadcasting reports that pine cones from Crater Lake National Park in Oregon and Mount Rainier in Washington state are being used to cultivate whitebark seedlings with a natural resistance to blister rust, a fungus that is threatening the trees.

Beetles are also infesting the trees, which thrive in bad soil and high elevations.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said earlier this month the whitebark pine deserves protection under the Endangered Species Act but the agency held off listing it immediately because of other priorities and lack of funding.

Biologists say they will plant four hundred of the disease-resistant whitebark pines this fall.

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Information from: KOPB-FM, http://news.opb.org