The Race to Save the American Chestnut

Published January 11, 2023


American Chestnuts once numbered in the billions and ranged along the East coast from Maine to Mississippi. But a blight in the early 1900s pushed them back to a fraction of their historic range. Today, the American Chestnut is considered “functionally extinct”, but efforts to restore them are making progress through genetic modification.

“Fortunately for us, even though there’s not billions of trees, there are still a few million stump sprouts surviving out there. And that’s a good thing. That means there’s a lot of genetic material that we can make a population that could be restored,” Bill Powell, American Chestnut Research and Restoration, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

In partnership with SUNY-ESF, TACF has worked towards a genetically engineered, blight-tolerant American chestnut. 

“We’re in the process of losing all the trees that are in the genus of ash. We have to use all the tools we have to preserve as much biodiversity as we can and to keep our ecosystem functioning,” says Jason Smith, Director of Northern Manhattan Parks, New York Restoration Project.

*Source: The Washington Post