Connecticut Chapter

About Us

Our Mission

Our mission is to restore the American Chestnut to the forests and woodlands of Connecticut (25 – 40% of the trees were American chestnuts in CT forests).

The Connecticut Chapter of TACF is a Chartered State Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation with its own Bylaws, Constitution and Treasury. It is organized as a tax-exempt non-profit foundation under the US Tax Code 501(c)3.

There is a Board of Directors – real people, your neighbors in Connecticut – who determine strategic direction, make decisions about application of resources, and are there when the rubber hits the road to install fences, plant trees and perform all the functions necessary to achieve our goals

Board of Directors

Executive Committee

President – Jack Swatt – Colchester

Board Term Expires Spring 2025

Jack Swatt has been a member of The American Chestnut Foundation since 1993.  He received a B.S. in Biological Sciences from UConn in 1983, an M.S. in Chemistry from CCSU in 1992 and graduated from the Albany Medical College Physician Assistant Program in 1996.  He is currently retired but was previously employed by The Hospital of Central Connecticut as a Physician Assistant in Hospitalist Medicine.  He is also an active volunteer for the CT DEEP (monitoring wintering eagles and Whip-poor-wills),  Audubon CT, CT Audubon, NH Audubon, the Loon Preservation Committee and the Society to Protect New Hampshire Forests (aka the Forest Society). He is also a life member of the Wolcott Fire Dept. Co. #2 and the New Haven Bird Club.

Vice President – Fred Behringer – Old Lyme

Board Term Expires Spring 2024

Fred followed the American chestnut story for many years and joined the CT chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation in 2021.  Trained as a biologist with a focus on plants (BS Biology, Bates College; PhD Plant Physiology, Cornell University; 7 years postdoctoral research in plant development and molecular biology), he is particularly excited about blight resistant Darling 58.  The TACF has put great effort into maintaining native American chestnut germplasm and providing advanced backcross lines with Chinese chestnut. The resistance Darling 58 confers opens up an exciting new chapter in efforts to restore the American chestnut as a keystone species.  A CT native, Fred lived for 20 years in various parts of the US. He returned to CT in 2018 and has resided in Old Lyme since then.  After moving back to CT, he worked as an analytical chemist and operated an analytical lab in Old Lyme from 2007 – 2021. Fred serves on several boards/commissions in Old Lyme involved with the environment and is active in a variety of community activities.  He is passionate about environmental stewardship and science literacy.

Treasurer – Dr. Jack Ostroff – Old Lyme

Board Term Expires Spring 2025

JackOstroffDr. Ostroff has been a member of TACF since 2000, joining after having been intrigued by a display at one of our local agricultural fairs. He received his BS from Yale University, MD from Rutgers Medical School, and MS in Computer Science from Rutgers University. Dr. Ostroff has attempted to use his medical knowledge to make better use of computers in the pharmaceutical industry and has leveraged his expertise as the chief architect of DentataBase, the American Chestnut Foundation’s Breeding Database. He has lived in Connecticut since 1994 and is a member of a number of environmental groups. He has served as a Board Member since 2009 and, from 2014 to 2020, as Chapter Vice-President.

Secretary & Research Coordinator – Dr. Florian Carle – New Haven

Board Term Expires Spring 2025

After spending his childhood in southern France harvesting and eating chestnuts at every occasion, Florian moved to New Haven for work in 2014 and realized American chestnuts are not as ubiquitous than their European counterpart. He is delighted to join the CT Chapter to help restore this amazing tree. Florian earned a M.Eng and a PhD from Aix Marseille University in France for his experimental work on droplets evaporation under microgravity for space applications. He is currently the manager of the Yale Quantum Institute where he creates programing to promote research and teaching of quantum science on the Yale campus, curates several series of talks and workshops, and facilitates scientific collaboration by hosting leading scientists from around the world. Outside of science, Florian likes to row and scull on the Housatonic River and he enjoys theater, rollerskating, and spending time with his cat Raccoon. He is also amused to live on Chestnut Street!

Board Members

Renée Allen – Guilford 

Board Term Expires Spring 2024

Renee Allen

Renée is Adjunct Faculty at the Hospitality & Tourism Management Department of the New Haven University. She share a passion for chestnut trees, mushroom foraging, and wine. Renée is Certified Specialist of Wine and writes a monthly Wine Column for the Connecticut Magazine. She holds a JD from Boston University.

Dr. Phil Arnold

Board Term Expires Spring 2024

Phil ArnoldDr. Arnold was a Board Certified Physician for 38 years specializing in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, retired in 2004. He received a BA from Yale University and M.D. from Tufts. Philip is active as a Director of the Woodbridge Land Trust and as a member of the American Chestnut Foundation. He feels a synergy between the goals of the organizations and is committed to the goals of restoration of a resistant American Chestnut. Dr. Arnold has served as the Woodbridge Orchard Manager, and served several years as Chapter Vice-President and subsequently Secretary, retiring from the Executive Committee in 2013.

John Baker – Litchfield

Board Term Expires Spring 2024

John BakerJohn Baker was (for 18 years or so) Treasurer of the Litchfield Hills Audubon Society (LHAS) and was instrumental in the acquisition of the property, now known as the Wigwam Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, on which the Society’s chestnut plantation is located. He has been a member of The American Chestnut Foundation since 1998. Born in New York City, but raised on a farm in Goshen, CT, John received his B.S. from Cornell University in 1956 and joined Cargill, Inc. After serving his country for three years in the U.S. Air Force as a navigator, he spent 37 years with Cargill as the country manager in the Philippines and in Thailand. Upon retiring to Litchfield with his wife Janet, he started beekeeping and joined the LHAS (in 1993). Then, after building their retirement home, John joined the Litchfield Housing Trust where he shepherded their affordable home building program. He is also President of the C.B. Ripley Land Trust, the CT Director of the Eastern Apiculture Society and is also a member of the Litchfield Conservation Commission. Needless to say, John has a great affection for the outdoors and the beauty of nature.

Dr. David Bingham – Salem

Board Term Expires Spring 2024

David BinghamDavid Bingham is a retired OB-GYN. He has been active with numerous conservation organizations, currently serving on the boards of the Salem Land Trust, Audubon Connecticut and the CT Land Conservation Coalition, and as co-chair of the CT League of Conservation Voters. David is a life member of TACF and manages a mother tree orchard located on his land in Salem, which includes young trees from 4th backcross nuts obtained from 3 native trees in CT. These trees were pollinated, by CT volunteers, with research pollen from The American Chestnut Foundation’s Meadowview Farm. One of the 3 parent CT American Chestnut mother trees has been nurtured by David in Salem for 20 years, and may now be one of the largest native trees in the State. Nuts from the Salem orchard are anticipated to be produced in the next year or two, to be grown in the seed orchards scheduled for the next phase of the restoration project. The Salem Land Trust has a test planting of “restoration trees” (from B3F3 nuts), planted in a deer exclosure at the Zemko Sawmill Preserve.

Michael Gaffey – Old Lyme

Board Term Expires Spring 2025

Married 42 yrs Marcia Prior Gaffey, father of Evan ( lawyer, Marine Lt);  Morgan (Chinese linguist, Army Ranger Capt);Allison (Dr. Psychology-Yale, West Haven Vets.).  23 yrs. Civil construction Superintendent ($1/2 billion), 14 yrs.-7 time award winning secondary economics teacher.  Tree Warden certified, Twice elected Old Lyme Board of Finance (coendorsed second six yr. term), Active member Old Lyme Tree Commission, and Grandfather of Two+.

Jim Gage – Ellington

Board Term Expires Spring 2024

Jim Gage has been a Director and Treasurer of the Northern Connecticut Land Trust and was a preserve monitor for The Nature Conservancy (Poquetanuck Cove) for approximately 8 years. A member of long-standing in the American Chestnut Foundation, he has served as the Chapter’s Treasurer and NCLT Orchard Manager for the greater part of a decade. He also served on the Ellington Conservation Commission, and was Director and Treasurer of the Scantic River Watershed Association. Jim retired from Pratt & Whitney Division of United Technologies in 1993. Jim has an MBA from Harvard University.

 

David Liedlich – Southbury

Board Term Expires Spring 2024

David has been a member of the American Chestnut Foundation since 2010.  He received an M.S. in Wildlife Science from New Mexico State University in 1991, and a B.S. in Wildlife & Fisheries Biology, with a Forestry minor from the University of Massachusetts in 1987.  He has been employed with the state of Connecticut, Department of Developmental Services since 1998 as both an Adult Services Instructor and as a Case Manager.  He is certified to teach life sciences/biology and Earth Science. David volunteers with the Southbury Land Trust, was a Commissioner on the Southbury Inland Wetlands Commission for 16 years, past Master of King Solomon’s Masonic Lodge, a member of the Connecticut Botanical Society, and is a life member of the Connecticut Valley Mycological Society.  David’s interests include gardening, hunting, edible wild mushrooms, and beekeeping.  He recently co-edited (2021) “The Beeing: Life Inside a Honeybee Colony” by Eric Tourneret, Sylla de Saint Pierre, and Jurgen Tautz.  “The Beeing” is the English language version of the French book on honeybees “Le Genie Des Abeilles” (2017).”

Dr. Bert Malkus – Woodbridge

Bert Malkus

Board Term Expires Spring 2024

Dr. Malkus is an Associate Director of Clinical Chemistry at Yale-New Haven Hospital, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Yale University School of Medicine, and a Director of Qualigen, Inc. Dr. Malkus holds a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Iowa State University and conducted NIH Postdoctoral Fellowship Research Studies at Yale University and the University of Florida. Dr. Malkus has been very involved with the Woodbridge Land Trust and is one of the key contacts for the Land Trust’s Backcross Chestnut Orchard.

Jack Morris – Glastonbury

Jack Morris

Board Term Expires Spring 2024

Jack is a retired engineer with an interest in science, mathematics and the great outdoors. Born in Utah, Jack received a BSEE in Computer Science from the University of Utah and began a career with Pratt and Whitney in 1970 as a Research Scientist. He became interested in the American Chestnut after numerous hikes in Connecticut where he realized that the species still existed in a diminished shrub-like or juvenile form and on rare occasions, finding a tree bearing fruit. Learning the story of the blight, he joined TACF about 15 years ago. As a member of a hiking club, his interest continues in locating these rare examples of fruiting trees. Membership in CT-TACF has provided an opportunity to assist local programs and to share with Nutmeggers the ultimate goal of reintroduction of the species in mature form back into our forests.

Dr. Lindsay Rush – East Lyme

Board Term Expires Spring 2025

Lindsay grew up in rural Pennsylvania, where she first became interested in ecology and native plants. She has a background in biology (BA, Franklin and Marshall College) and genetics (PhD, Yale University). Lindsay is currently an Assistant Professor at Mitchell College in New London and teaches broadly in the sciences, including biology, genetics, evolution of food, and scientific communication courses. In addition to thinking about how to get young people excited about science, she enjoys exploring the local trails in southeastern Connecticut.

Mark Vollaro – Shelton

Board Term Expires Spring 2024

Woods “Ellery” Sinclair – Falls Village

Board Term Expires Spring 2025

Woods SinclairEllery has lived in Falls Village for sixty-two years and is a retired English teacher of the Housatonic Valley Regional High School where he became Department Chairman. Presently he is Chairman of the Inland Wetlands/ Conserva-tion Commission, past-president on the library board, Housatonic River Commissioner, Zoning Board of Appeals member, and HVRHS Arboretum Committee member. For the past two years he has helped establish and manages the Canaan Mountain TACF Chestnut Orchard of about 250 backcross trees in Falls Village. He has engaged the Vocational Agricultural Education students from HVRHS as partners through their curriculum, and helped implement a chapter summer-internship. Grateful to be re-nominated, Woods looks forward to serving another term with the dedicated folks on the Connecticut Chapter Board.

 

If you are interested in becoming a board member, please contact one of the members of the nomination committee: John Baker, Jane Harris & Ginny Patsun

Connecticut Chapter Menu

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The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) is hiring! We're seeking a highly organized full-time Operations Specialist. The Operations Specialist is the face of TACF and is the first point of contact for all visitors to the national office in Asheville. They will balance a variety of responsibilities and must possess a high degree of flexibility, professional attitude, and initiative. The ideal candidate will understand a nonprofit environment and have a strong commitment to service.

Applications close at 12:00PM on March 22, 2024. Please visit the employment page for a complete job description and additional details. tacf.org/employment/
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The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) is hiring! Were seeking a highly organized full-time Operations Specialist. The Operations Specialist is the face of TACF and is the first point of contact for all visitors to the national office in Asheville. They will balance a variety of responsibilities and must possess a high degree of flexibility, professional attitude, and initiative. The ideal candidate will understand a nonprofit environment and have a strong commitment to service.

Applications close at 12:00PM on March 22, 2024. Please visit the employment page for a complete job description and additional details. https://tacf.org/employment/

Who's up for a roadtrip? If you live in the New England region there are a couple great opportunities to connect with a state chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation this weekend!

The CT-TACF Chapter will be hosting a table at the Hartford Flower and Garden Show in Hartford, CT Feb 22-25 (tacf.org/event/tacf-at-the-hartford-flower-and-garden-show/)

And the ME-TACF Chapter will be hosting a table at the Cabin Fever Reliever in Brewer, ME on Saturday, Feb 24 (tacf.org/event/cabin-fever-reliever/).

Find more events near you on the TACF Events Calendar! tacf.org/events
... See MoreSee Less

Whos up for a roadtrip? If you live in the New England region there are a couple great opportunities to connect with a state chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation this weekend!

The CT-TACF Chapter will be hosting a table at the Hartford Flower and Garden Show in Hartford, CT Feb 22-25 (https://tacf.org/event/tacf-at-the-hartford-flower-and-garden-show/)

And the ME-TACF Chapter will be hosting a table at the Cabin Fever Reliever in Brewer, ME on Saturday, Feb 24 (https://tacf.org/event/cabin-fever-reliever/). 

Find more events near you on the TACF Events Calendar! https://tacf.org/events

Yes! The 2023 Annual Report of The American Chestnut Foundation is here! We are extremely proud of the accomplishments of TACF volunteers, collaborators, supporters, and staff in our 40th year.

This beautiful report reads more like a magazine and is packed with inspiration, beautiful graphics, and gratitude to the people like you you who made all of this work possible. Sure, we had our share of ups and downs in 2023, but together we're moving forward stronger and filled with optimism. Here's to another great year of progress toward restoring the American chestnut!

View the Annual Report here: tacf.org/about-us/financials/
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3 days ago
The American Chestnut Foundation

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The American chestnut, Castanea dentata, once dominated portions of the eastern U.S. forests. Numbering nearly four billion, the tree was among the largest, tallest, and fastest-growing in these forests. The range extended from Mississippi to southern Ontario and as far northeast as Maine.

In the late 1800’s a deadly blight from Asia was introduced, and in about 50 years, the pathogen, Cryphonectria parasitica, reduced the American chestnut from its huge heights to a tree that now grows mostly as an early-successional-stage shrub.

Despite its demise, the American chestnut is not extinct. The blight cannot kill the underground root system, and stump sprouts grow vigorously in cutover or disturbed sites where there is plenty of sunlight, but inevitably succumb to the blight.

The American Chestnut Foundation is working to develop a blight-resistant American chestnut tree through scientific research and breeding, and to restore the tree to its native range in the eastern United States.

Visit our website tacf.org to learn more about this iconic tree species.
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The American chestnut, Castanea dentata, once dominated portions of the eastern U.S. forests. Numbering nearly four billion, the tree was among the largest, tallest, and fastest-growing in these forests. The range extended from Mississippi to southern Ontario and as far northeast as Maine. 

In the late 1800’s a deadly blight from Asia was introduced, and in about 50 years, the pathogen, Cryphonectria parasitica, reduced the American chestnut from its huge heights to a tree that now grows mostly as an early-successional-stage shrub. 

Despite its demise, the American chestnut is not extinct. The blight cannot kill the underground root system, and stump sprouts grow vigorously in cutover or disturbed sites where there is plenty of sunlight, but inevitably succumb to the blight. 

The American Chestnut Foundation is working to develop a blight-resistant American chestnut tree through scientific research and breeding, and to restore the tree to its native range in the eastern United States. 

Visit our website tacf.org to learn more about this iconic tree species.

21 CommentsComment on Facebook

This map is missing a big area of SE Michigan where chestnut historically grew.

I hope they are successful. It was a mighty tree.

I planted two hybrid American Chestnuts in southern Minnesota....fingers crossed this spring

I hope they are successful.

Barnwood Builders on TV occasionally comes across a cabin or barn with timber made from the chestnut tree. The wood is beautiful.

I would love to hear an update on the state lands that had a forest fire a few years back in I think Tennessee or North Carolina? The area had many stump sprouts that stay like that because the sunlight can’t get to them to shoot to the sky . Well I would like to know if anyone has been to the forest to see the American chestnut sprouts that should be up above the other slow growing trees that will resprout . Can we get a update please

There were two cut down at the end of our street in NJ. I’m sure the root system could be worked to start new trees

I know of 2 Americans Chestnuts in the Fort Mill SC area. Or I did. My grandfather used to point them out all the time when we were hunting in the woods. But this area has grown up so much I don’t know if they’re there anymore. They were maybe 200 yards off of Sugar Creek down towards the Lancaster/York county line. He would always talk about how many there used to be.

Been reading about American chestnut resurrection for forty years. I just ignore it now.

So when y'all gonna drop 'em on us? I got yard space mapped out for it.

Any idea when gmo chestnut will be released?

Anyone know how many documented survivors there are?

I’ve been waiting my entire adult life for the return of the American Chestnut. Year after year it seems to never get any closer. With genetic science, gene splicing and the like, it seems like it should be right around the corner. I hope I get to live long enough to see that day.

Is there any understanding of why there are gaps in Maine?

Our greatest ecological disaster.

When you take into account the enormous economic impact this blight created, pretty sure it was a contributing factor in the great depression. Homesteaders and landowners in a HUGE section of the east coast suddenly lost a MAJOR cash crop in just a few short years, the chestnuts themselves, which were used for both human and livestock consumption, and shipped across the country in railcars. Wildlife of all manner depended on the chestnuts, and they suffered a dramatic decline in numbers because of the blight. Wildlife populations plummeted because of the sudden loss of massive amounts of food. The wood itself was highly prized, being insect and rot resistant. One of the most sought after woods in America, and logged heavily. It is estimated that there were once over 3 BILLION healthy, mature trees before the blight. Now there are just a handful of healthy trees in the entire country.

What level of blight resistance has TACF achieved at this point?

Before climate change?

also missing southern Ontario Canada

It's gone. The passenger pigeon is gone. The economic activity from a century ago is gone. It's done, y'all.

“… Across the Northeast, forests are haunted by the ghosts of American giants. A little more than a century ago, these woods brimmed with American chestnuts—stately Goliaths that could grow as high as 130 feet tall and more than 10 feet wide. Nicknamed “the redwoods of the East,” some 4 billion American chestnuts dotted the United States’ eastern flank, stretching from the misty coasts of Maine down into the thick humidity of Appalachia. …Susan Freinkel noted in her 2009 book, “a perfect tree.” Its wood housed birds and mammals; its leaves infused the soil with minerals; its flowers sated honeybees that would ferry pollen out to nearby trees. In the autumn, its branches would bend under the weight of nubby grape-size nuts. When they dropped to the forest floor, they’d nourish raccoons, bears, turkey, and deer. For generations, Indigenous people feasted on the nuts, split the wood for kindling, and laced the leaves into their medicine. Later on, European settlers, too, introduced the nuts into their recipes and orchards, and eventually learned to incorporate the trees’ sturdy, rot-resistant wood into fence posts, telephone poles, and railroad ties. The chestnut became a tree that could shepherd people “from cradle to grave,” …” www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2023/12/american-chestnut-perfect-tree-restoration/676927/

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