Hope for the American Chestnut

There’s an interesting piece in today’s Washington Post on the potential for a comeback of the American chestnut tree, a former mainstay of Appalachian forests. As the author, Juliet Eilperin, writes,

“The American chestnut served as an economic engine for Appalachia. Families fattened livestock with its nuts and used its wood for fuel, railroad ties, fence posts, musical instruments and furniture. It was a fixture along East Coast and Appalachian streets and highways, where its display of fingery white flowers was a springtime delight.”

The American chestnut virtually disappeared after a foreign blight in the last century. However, efforts to interbreed the American with its Chinese cousin to create an American chestnut with some resistance to Asian blight have shown signs of promise.

Eilperin continues,

“If the hybrid plantings thrive, some envision huge tracts of strip-mined Appalachia one day being restored with lovely chestnut forests…now that they’ve got trees with a shot at survival, volunteers have joined federal officials to begin reforestation. They’ve planted 20,000 to 25,000 chestnuts, and some of the most promising work is being done on land decimated by strip mining that must be restored under federal law.”

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject: the role the American chestnut may have played in your family history, whether there are efforts in your community to introduce hybrid plantings or treat affected trees, and what hopes or misgivings you may have about reforestation efforts.

Kristin Tracz

About Kristin Tracz

Kristin Tracz served MACED’s Research and Policy team from 2009-2012 working on clean energy policy, energy efficiency programs and the Appalachian Transition Initiative. She joined MACED after finishing her Master of Environmental Management degree at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. She now lives and works in Washington, DC.