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, about 3-5% of sugar pines and western white pines possess a natural genetic resistance to the fungus. John felt passionate about saving Tahoe's forests, and he knew what to do: identify blister rust resistant trees, collect their seed, and plant their progeny. 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 and John stayed on as a BOD President. The organization's staff grew over the years. Currently with 2 permanent, 3 seasonal staff and 5 BOD members, the SPF is committed to raise awareness and counteract the threat of white pine blister rust.