The history of the Indiana Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation begins in the early 1980’s when Bruce Wakeland discovered a woodlot with chestnut regeneration in one of our northwestern counties. As a forester, he became very interested in the species and excited that it was surviving in the wild. You could say that Bruce was on the basement floor of the foundation’s start-up when he began meeting with some of the original founders shortly thereafter.
Once the Foundation was established in 1983, Indiana became the third state chapter (in 1996), and today has one of the most advanced backcrossing programs because of that early start. Bruce began our program by back-crossing a few trees from our northern counties with pollen shipped from Meadowview, and mainly used his own land to plant offspring. He has been the backbone of the Indiana program and remains extremely active not only in our chapter’s activities, but also with many committees and meetings at the national level. There would be no American Chestnut program in Indiana without Bruce Wakeland.
Indiana’s first chairman was Garland Hicks, followed by Bruce Wakeland, Doug Jacobs, and Sally Weeks. Roberta Kick has been our only treasurer. Bruce was head of the breeding program until 2006 until Jim McKenna took the reins. We have BC3F1 seed orchards at Wakeland’s property, Purdue, Jackson-Washington State Forest, Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center in northern Indiana, and seed orchards at Potawatomi Wildlife Park and Southern Indiana Purdue Ag Center (SIPAC).
Indiana has several important cooperators who are integral parts of our program, including Purdue University, U.S. Forest Service and Indiana Division of Natural Resources.