Our Story

Our story begins

In the summer of 2004, John Pickett was working as a U.S. Forest Service technician in the Lake Tahoe Basin. That summer, John saw that most of Tahoe’s white pines – including the princely sugar pine, the world’s largest pine – were dying due to a non-native, invasive fungus called white pine blister rust (Cronartium ribicola). John knew that losing Tahoe’s white pines would be catastrophic for the region’s wildlife, water quality and economy; not to mention future generations of nature-lovers and recreationalists. Although blister rust is incurable in infected pines, about 3-5% of sugar pines and western white pines possess a natural genetic resistance to the fungus.

White Pine Blister Rust

John felt passionate about saving Tahoe’s forests and he knew what to do: identify blister rust resistant trees, collect their seeds, and plant the next generation.  He decided to take action, and by July of 2005 he had created the Sugar Pine Foundation, a non-profit corporation dedicated to restoring the natural regeneration of white pines in the Tahoe region and beyond.

Aside from the help of invaluable volunteers, the Sugar Pine Foundation was basically a one-man operation until July of 2007, when Maria Mircheva took over as Executive Director. The organization is still small and close-knit, but the staff has grown a bit over the years. Currently with 2 permanent staff, 2 seasonal staff, and 7 members of the Board of Directors, the Sugar Pine Foundation is committed to raising awareness and fighting the threat of white pine blister rust.

Our Mission

We are dedicated to restoring sugar pines and other white pines in the Lake Tahoe region and beyond. By educating and involving local volunteers of all ages in hands-on forest stewardship, we are conserving these important native species for future generations to enjoy.

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