The U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF), a non-profit organization restoring the American chestnut tree, today signed an agreement to return the beloved American chestnut tree to eastern United States forests more than 50 years after it was nearly wiped out by the chestnut blight.
A memorandum of understanding, signed at a Forest Service meeting with its leadership team and TACF executives here, establishes a framework for the two organizations to work together to introduce blight-resistant American chestnut trees into the forest ecosystem of the eastern landscape. The Forest Service and TACF will use scientific research and a breeding program developed by TACF founders to restore the once dominant hardwood tree to its native woodlands.
“This agreement with The American Chestnut Foundation is a prime example of how partnerships with non-profits and other groups can double our efforts in restoring and preserving our nation’s forests and wildlife habitat,” said Dale Bosworth, chief of the Forest Service. “One of the greatest benefits of restoring the American chestnut will be a food source to wildlife because of its capacity for large and plentiful nut production.”
Chestnut, the "redwood of the East," is a very fast-growing hardwood. It is an environmentally-friendly alternative to pressure-treated wood and can be used to fit the demand for naturally rot-resistant wood for fencing, landscape timbers and utility poles.
“The loss of these trees is considered by some measures to be among the greatest environmental disasters to befall the Western Hemisphere since the last Ice Age,” said Marshal T. Case, president and chief executive officer of TACF. “Restoration of this keystone species will greatly benefit both local economies and the ecosystem in the eastern United States.”
At the beginning of the 20th century, the American chestnut comprised up to one-quarter of the total stand in its range, from Maine to Georgia, from the Piedmont to the Ohio Valley and into the Great Lakes region. First discovered in 1904 in New York City, the blight—incited by a fungus accidentally imported on Asian chestnut trees to which our native chestnuts had very little resistance—spread quickly. In its wake it left only dead and dying stems, killing billions of trees. By 1950, except for the root sprouts the species continually produces (and which also quickly
become infected), the keystone species on some nine million acres of eastern forests had mostly disappeared.
The Forest Service is a federal agency that manages 191 million acres of national forests and grasslands. The Forest Service is the largest forestry research organization in the world and its state and private forestry programs provide technical and financial assistance to state and
private forestry agencies. Its mission is to sustain the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. For more information, visit www.fs.fed.us.
The American Chestnut Foundation is a not-for-profit organization funded primarily by more than 5,000 American and International members. Its goal is to restore the American chestnut tree to its native forests through a scientific research and breeding program developed by TACF founders. For more information, visit http://www.acf.org/.