Passing the Baton of Conservation
By Martin McAllister, The Nature Conservancy
Much of conservation work is a long-term effort requiring forethought and patience. It also depends on one generation inspiring the next to take up the torch and carry the dream forward to success.
“As a young man, my father was broken-hearted watching the chestnut blight blow through Pennsylvania. I got involved with TACF to remember him and the grief he expressed” says Marianne Gable, President of the Board of Trustees for The Nature Conservancy in Ohio. Marianne’s interest and passion for the restoration of the American chestnut is helping bring back the former iconic Appalachian forest species.
The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and The American Chestnut Foundation recently teamed up with two dozen volunteers to plant nearly 600 backcross hybrid seedlings at the Edge of Appalachia Preserve System in Adams County, OH. This 20,000-acre nature preserve is TNC’s largest preserve in Ohio and one of the largest in the eastern United States. Here at “the Edge” unbroken forests, clear-running streams, prairie relicts and karst features protect over one hundred species listed as rare or endangered in Ohio. In April, TNC staff and volunteers were joined by enthusiastic volunteers from Groundwork Cincinnati’s “Green Team” and others from the Ohio Valley Forestry Fellowship to plant the seedlings.
The planting took place on one of the largest parcels recently protected by TNC, a 462-acre tract surrounded on three sides by Shawnee State Forest. The site was purchased using mitigation funds for the federally threatened northern long-eared bat from the Ohio Department of Transportation. Consisting of rugged hills clothed in oak woodland, the tract also includes several acres of open fields once occupied by a fruit orchard. Replanting the site with American chestnut is an excellent way to help fill in the gaps of this nearly unbroken hardwood forest.
Tom Boeing, President of the Ohio Valley Forestry Fellowship, says “The Ohio Valley Forestry Fellowship (OVFF) was glad to have the opportunity to work with The Nature Conservancy and The American Chestnut Foundation to help bring back chestnuts to Ohio. It was fun to work with such a great bunch of dedicated volunteers.”
The planting day was the perfect opportunity for OVFF volunteers to teach the younger generation the proper technique for planting and protecting seedlings.
Allen Edwards, Education Director for Groundwork Cincinnati, says “Groundwork Cincinnati was excited to partner with The Nature Conservancy of Ohio for this unique opportunity to help reestablish the American chestnut here in Ohio at the Edge of Appalachia Preserve. Having the Green Team youth interacting and learning from the experts from the Ohio Valley Forestry Fellowship and the Nature Conservancy helped instill the conservation ethic in the next generation of stewards.”
TNC Board President Gable knows the importance of passing on a long-term conservation dream like bringing back the American chestnut. “By passing the chestnut baton on to the outstanding staff at the Edge, I know I’m growing the trees of the future.”