Public Relations Department
Glenville State College
Glenville, WV—On Saturday, March 9th, twenty student volunteers from Glenville State College (GSC) joined forces with The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) and planted 625 chestnut trees including 475 potentially blight-resistant American chestnuts on a reclaimed surface mine in Nicholas County.
TACF’s potentially blight-resistant American chestnuts are the result of thirty years of careful breeding and research by TACF’s scientists in an effort to restore this native tree. “This type of hands-on service learning is an important component in our GSC curriculum. The students learned about the Forestry Reclamation Approach, American Chestnut restoration, and were given a tour of a surface coal mine,” said Brian Perkins, GSC Assistant Professor of Forestry. He commended the students for volunteering for the planting event even though it took place during their spring break.
“The chestnut planting taught me a new method of planting trees and allowed me to participate in an important experiment alongside the current employees of my field of study,” said Brice Little, a junior Forest Technology major from Marietta, Ohio.
Tyler Karp, a junior Forest Technology major from Weston (Lewis County), West Virginia also enjoyed the planting. “This was a great experience and way to meet new people. It was also very exciting to get the chance to learn about the American Chestnut Foundations activities and to be part of one of their many plantings,” he said.
The planting in Nicholas County is part of a large-scale, multi-year project by TACF to reforest 12 reclaimed mine sites throughout five states (Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia) funded in part by a Conservation Innovation Grant from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS). Over three years, Approximately 250,000 seedlings, including more than 14,000 blight-resistant America chestnuts will be planted by TACF and project cooperators on a total of 360 acres. This project is the largest planting of potentially blight-resistant American chestnut trees in the Foundation’s history and marks a milestone in the restoration of this once dominant native tree.
Volunteers from the West Virginia Chapter of TACF, Glenville State College, NRCS, Society of American Foresters, and the USDA Forest Service participated in the March 9th planting event. ACI Eastern prepared the land using the Forestry Reclamation Approach, a method that was developed by the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative. The Forestry Reclamation Approach leaves the surface material loose which promotes healthy root development leading to increased survival and growth rates of trees and increases water infiltration. ACI Eastern’s Senior Environmental Engineer, Keith O’Dell said, “ACI Eastern has been working to reclaim lands in a way that will provide future generations with productive forestland for environmental and economic benefits and we are proud to be a part of this restoration effort.”
Michael French of TACF agrees. “This NRCS grant is allowing us to demonstrate how chestnuts and high value hardwoods can return mine sites to a healthy forest, and also improve water quality and wildlife habitat.”
Pardee and Curtin Realty allowed TACF to implement this project on their property. “We fully support the effort to get chestnuts reintroduced throughout the eastern hardwood forests,” said George Curtin.
Once the mighty giants of the eastern forests, American chestnuts stood up to 100 feet tall and numbered in the billions. They were a vital part of the forest ecology, a key food source for wildlife, and an essential component of the human economy. In 1904, a blight accidentally imported from Asia spread rapidly through the American chestnut population. By 1950, it had killed an estimated four billion mature trees from Maine to Georgia. Several attempts to breed blight resistant trees in the mid-1900s were unsuccessful.
In 1983, a dedicated group of scientists formed The American Chestnut Foundation and began a special breeding process, which in 2005 produced the first potentially blight resistant trees called Restoration Chestnuts 1.0. Now assisted by almost 6,000 members and volunteers in 23 states, the organization is undertaking the planting of Restoration Chestnuts in select locations throughout the eastern United States as part of the Foundation’s early restoration efforts.
In May of 2009, faculty members from the Glenville State College Land Resources Department were joined by Dr. Bob Paris, a plant geneticist with The American Chestnut Foundation, for the planting of a chestnut orchard on GSC property. It was the first chestnut orchard in West Virginia. Over one hundred seedlings donated by TACF were planted in a field on property used by the GSC Land Resources Department. The orchard includes a variety of chestnut strains including: 100% American chestnut, 75% American chestnut and 25% Chinese chestnut, 87.5 % American chestnut and 12.5% Chinese Chestnut, 15/16 American chestnut and 1/16 Chinese chestnut. “This orchard at Glenville State College is our first in West Virginia. It will be used for testing and research of The American Chestnut Foundation’s breeding program. We hope it will help increase public awareness of the effort to restore the American chestnut,” said Dr. Paris at the time. The chestnut trees in the GSC orchard have grown to be six to seven feet tall.
TACF is a 501(c) 3 conservation organization headquartered in Asheville, North Carolina. For more information on TACF and their work to restore the American chestnut tree, contact Paul Franklin at (828) 281-0047 email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Or visit www.acf.org.
For more information about the GSC Forestry Program, contact Perkins at Brian.Perkins@glenville.edu or (304) 462-6373.