PARTNERSHIPS IN ACTION
The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) seeks partners that will not only help further its chestnut restoration program but also bring attention to the importance of the chestnut in American history. These partners include major universities, private foundations and businesses, as well as state and federal government agencies. Below are a few of our partnerships in action.
USDA Forest Service – Restoring the American chestnut to our National Forests
The USDA Forest Service has been a tried-and-true partner of The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) for the past 25 years. They are one of TACF’s largest, long-term funders and provide the use of national forest land and the assistance of USDA Forest Service personnel to help restore the American chestnut.
The American chestnut’s native range is located within Regions 8 & 9 of the USDA Forest Service. To date, more than 10,000 American chestnuts have been planted in national forests in ten states: Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, Maine, and Vermont.
USDA Forest Service researchers and TACF scientists work together to establish test plantings that will allow us to evaluate our potentially blight-resistant American chestnuts called Restoration Chestnuts 1.0. These plantings will be monitored over the course of many years, to document how the trees resist the blight and their growth characteristics. Gathering this information from real forests environments is invaluable to our progress.
The long-term goal of this work is the establishment of self-sustaining populations of American chestnut. Until we are at a point when the American chestnut tree can regenerate on its own, these clustered plantings on national forests are necessary and serve as the first step in the species’ restoration.
Where it is feasible, we invite the local community to participate in these plantings. Through these hands-on events, partially funded by the National Forest Foundation, citizens develop a deeper connection to our national forests while participating in an historic restoration project, often described as “an opportunity of a lifetime.”
Restoring American chestnuts to our National Forests will benefit the health of the forests by providing a nutritious food for wildlife and creating more diverse ecosystems. These plantings also fulfill an important goal of the USDA Forest Service to restore native trees to our forests. We are proud to be a partner of the USDA Forest Service. Together, we look forward to a time when the American chestnut will once again grow wild in the forests of the eastern United States.
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) is pleased to announce that it has received a $541,136 Conservation Innovation Grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service to establish forest plantings, including American chestnut, on reclaimed mine sites in Appalachia. This three-year project (2011-2014) will reforest 12 reclaimed mine sites across five states (Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky) with high-quality native hardwood species that include TACF’s potentially blight-resistant American chestnut trees.
This CIG grant also funds the continued development of an online Trees Database and workshops for landowners and cooperators on how to grow American chestnuts and how to evaluate mined sites for chestnut plantings. In addition to the NCRS, The American Chestnut Foundation will work with the Appalachian Region Reforestation Initiative (ARRI) on this large-scale, multi-year project.
“This $1.1 million project is poised to make a big difference in the eastern US coal regions. The ARRI science team, along with TACF scientists, has invested many decades of research to develop innovative techniques to return the mind sites back to diverse, healthy, productive forests.” - Dr. Patrick Angel, US Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement
“As partners with The American Chestnut Foundation we can develop more and better conservation tools that can expand our conservation portfolio to benefit farmers, ranchers and private forest landowners.” - Dave White, NRCS Chief
“There is currently an estimated ¾ million acres of previously mined land that could be returned to healthy forests. Much of this land can be restored to high quality hardwood forests to provide valuable habitat for wildlife and valuable timber resources for rural Appalachian communities.” – Bryan Burhans, former TACF President and CEO
The Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative (ARRI)
As part of the reclamation process, the American chestnut, one of the fastest-growing native hardwoods in North America, is being planted with other high-value hardwood tree species on mined lands in the Appalachian coal fields . These plantings are part of the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative (ARRI) which promotes the reforestation of these coal-mined lands using high-value, native hardwood trees including the American chestnut, to help heal the land.
The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) and ARRI formed a partnership that will allow TACF to use ARRI's reclamation sites for establishing experimental plots and demonstration sites. Through a program called “Operation Springboard”, ARRI and TACF scientists have teamed up with mine operators to evaluate planting protocols and techniques needed for when TACF’s disease-resistant chestnuts will be available in mass quantities. They are also evaluating the potential for using reclaimed surface mines as vectors of dispersal, or “springboards”, for establishing TACF's chestnuts back into the Appalachian forest. The coal fields of Appalachia overlap the native range of the chestnut. Virtually all of the land mined in Appalachia was once forested. The partnership between ARRI and TACF endeavors to return both the form and function of the forest to mined land by planting fast-growing hardwoods like the American chestnut. Please visit ARRI's question and answer page: http://arri.osmre.gov/AC/os-qna.htm
The National Wild Turkey Federation
The National Wild Turkey Federation signed a Memorandum of Understanding with TACF to benefit American chestnut trees and wild turkeys. Through the MOU, the NWTF will work with TACF to plant blight-resistant chestnut trees in orchards to provide a future source of American chestnut trees for wild turkeys.
Together, the NWTF and TACF will work to improve forest health by eventually planting American chestnut trees to benefit wildlife in the eastern United States from Maine down to Georgia. The single purpose of both the NWTF and TACF is to restore a species that will benefit forest health and many other species of wildlife. This is a wonderful opportunity for two volunteer-based organizations to come together to do fieldwork in the restoration process and to have a coordinated effort with regard to using federal forestland, something the Forest Service has encouraged for many years.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Scientists and volunteers from The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) and Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) will train PATC volunteers to collect data on American chestnut trees identified along the Appalachian Trail (AT). The effort is part of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s AT Mega-Transect Project, which seeks to engage the public in citizen-science efforts to collect data along the AT to raise awareness of threats to the environmental health of the Appalachian Region.
Two types of data will be collected: (1) total number of American chestnut trees three feet in height or taller within fifteen feet on either side of the trail and (2) location and description of large individual trees eight inches or greater in circumference at 4.5 feet above ground. The data will contribute to understanding the status of surviving remnants of a species that played a key role in forests throughout Appalachia before being devastated by a blight fungus imported with Asian chestnut trees in the early Twentieth Century. Data on large individual trees with the potential to produce flowers will assist TACF in increasing the genetic diversity of its backcross breeding program, which is intended to restore the American chestnut tree to its former place in the region’s forests by producing an otherwise American chestnut with the blight resistant characteristics of Asian chestnut.