Tidioute students help bring chestnut trees back to ANF

Back in the 1800s, the American chestnut tree filled Eastern and Midwestern forests. Less than a century later, the chestnut blight, a disease caused by a fungus imported on Japanese chestnut trees, spread throughout the East and killed an estimated 3.5 billion of these giant trees.

To restore this forest icon, Leila Pinchot, Ph.D., a research ecologist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station and her colleagues, began a 10-year study on the local Allegheny National Forest to understand how American chestnut restoration can be merged with national forest management.

On April 21, students from the Tidioute Community Charter School’s science class had a first hand look at forest research when they joined staff from the Northern Research Station and the Allegheny National Forest to plant chestnut seedlings.

The seedlings were provided by the American Chestnut Foundation, which has been working to breed blight-resistant American chestnut trees.

At the session, Dr. Pinchot told the students about the research she and her colleagues are conducting to bring back chestnuts to forests.

She said her study will evaluate the long-term growth and survival of 1,400 hybrid American chestnut seeds and seedlings.

The first plantings occurred in 2016, when Allegheny National Forest employees planted 612 hybrid American chestnut and 306 wild American chestnut nuts on three plots.

Partners for the project included the Northern Research Station; Allegheny National Forest; The American Chestnut Foundation; The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station; University of Tennessee; Penn State, Dubois; and the National Forest Foundation.