In early October, EMU students helped to complete the reintroduction of 200 American Chestnut seedlings on 11 sites in Rockingham County, Virginia. The project, led by Loren Hostetter, a volunteer with the American Chestnut Cooperator’s Foundation (ACCF), has been working to reintroduce the tree to its historical habitat and to educate the public about the dangers of invasive species and the pathogens they carry.
The American Chestnut once numbered nearly four billion in the eastern United States and southern Ontario. It played an important part of the ecosystem in its natural range and an essential piece of the early U.S. agricultural economy both for its nuts and its rot-resistant, straight-grained, fast-growing wood. In the early 20th century, a deadly blight was introduced from Asia that effectively destroyed the tree’s population in about 40 years.
Since the 1980s, the American Chestnut Cooperator’s Foundation (ACCF) has been working to crossbreed surviving trees to resist the blight. Their hope is that ongoing trials and partnership with the National Forest Service and Shenandoah National Park will someday see the largescale return of the American Chestnut to wide swaths of its native range.
The planting was funded in part through a grant from JoinTrees, a campaign of Mennonite Men, the men's organization of Mennonite Church Canada and Mennonite Church USA, to plant one million trees by the year 2030.