Black History Month: Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention

Musician, keyboardist, and conservationist, Chuck Leavell. Photo credit: Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

As The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) moves closer to the restoration phase of the American chestnut, we will have to rely not only on public lands but also that of private landowners to create a contiguous, self-sustaining range of the species. With that in mind, and in the spirit of Black History Month, we would like to recommend the new PBS series called America’s Forests with Chuck Leavell, specifically the episode on South Carolina. It highlights the landowners of the Sustainable Forestry and African American Land Retention (SFLR) program, a partnership between the U.S. Endowment for Forestry and Communities (Endowment), USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and USDA Forest Service (USFS). Hosted by famous musician, keyboardist, and conservationist Chuck Leavell, the episode captures personal stories of family land told by these landowners, as well as tree plantings and forest cruising. You do not want to miss this premier episode.

Here at TACF, we look forward to the day we can play a role in helping to build the SFLR program and increase family wealth through the ability to grow American chestnuts for timber and nut harvesting. To date, the program supports eight project sites across seven states and more than 955 landowners. The participants own a combined 71,000 acres, ensuring land assets remain held by historical landowners. In the video, South Carolina tree farmer Joseph Hamilton speaks confidently about the future of forestland retention for African Americans: “It’s our time. People of color typically are not involved in the forestry arena. But now, I am looking forward to tomorrow. This tree farmer industry is here to stay.”

Chuck Leavell is also an American chestnut enthusiast! Because of his work with and support of TACF, he received the Foundation’s first Chestnut Conservation Champion Award in late October at its 35th Anniversary Celebration and Annual Meeting in Huntsville, AL. Click here to watch his acceptance speech (Chuck couldn’t attend the meeting because he was touring with the Rolling Stones).

Learn more about America’s Forests with Check Leavell.