Vermont / New Hampshire Chapter

About Us

Our Mission

The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) has been working to restore the magnificent American chestnut, Castenea dentata, since 1983. The driving force that moves this effort forward consists of 16 State chapters of dedicated volunteers. The VT/NH Chapter was first organized in 2007. Three restoration approaches are implemented under the TACF “3-BUR” program: “Breeding, Biotechnology and Biocontrol – United for Restoration.” The VT/NH Chapter incorporates all three methods in its restoration efforts.

Breeding: The traditional TACF breeding program is implemented at nine breeding orchards and three seed orchards that are managed by volunteers and partners across VT and NH. These orchards contain trees produced through three generations of back crossing wild American chestnuts (having no blight resistance) with Chinese chestnuts (which do have blight resistance). The resulting offspring are screened for blight resistance and those with acceptable levels are intercrossed over three more generations. At each generation we continue to refine the balance of blight tolerance and American chestnut character in this population of trees. Blight resistance is a complex trait that is not easily transferred to American trees. Stringent selection criteria and genomic assessment tools helps us keep only the best trees in our program.

Biotechnology: The core of the biotechnology program is transgenics. Scientists at the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF), discovered that a gene from wheat produces an enzyme, oxalate oxidase (OxO), which enhances blight tolerance significantly. Release of this transgenic tree into Eastern forests requires Federal approval from USDA, EPA and FDA. The transgenic tree is a clone so it must be crossed for multiple generations with wild America chestnuts to assure genetic diversity. The VT/NH Chapter aggressively seeks nuts from wild trees, with emphasis on those having 100% American characteristics. These nuts are planted in Germplasm Conservation Orchards (GCO) in VT and NH. Flowering trees in GCOs may be pollinated with transgenic pollen following Federal approval.

Biocontrol: The primary biological control method being explored by TACF and its partners is hypovirulence. Chestnut blight fungus is infected by a virus, thereby sickening the fungus and reducing the ability of chestnut blight to cause lethal infections. Using this method, the natural defenses of the chestnut, combined with soil microorganisms may enable the tree to halt canker growth and ultimately survive an infection. In addition, the VT/NH Chapter is experimenting with “mud packing” as a method to slow blight canker development on individual trees.

Our Mission

Self-sustaining stands of blight-resistant American chestnut trees growing in Vermont and New Hampshire woodlands.

Board of Directors

The Board of Directors strives to achieve this Goal through various committees having responsibilities to manage orchards, locate and harvest nut producing wild American chestnuts, oversee Chapter governance, and convey the chestnut restoration story through outreach.

Board Members

Evan Fox – President

Evan Fox is retired and lives in Barnard, VT with his wife Sue of 41 years, where she loves to garden and he loves to grow, manage and harvest about ten acres of softwood and hardwood trees, including the challenging Chestnut. He is an avid outdoorsman, carpenter and amateur cabinetmaker, heats mostly with firewood and is a semi-serious maple syrup producer during the season. Evan graduated Penn State’s Agricultural Engineering College in 1979, made his career in PA and serves as President of the Penn State Alumni Association’s Vermont Chapter.

 

Gary Hawley – Vice President

Gary Hawley is an Environmental Sciences and Forestry faculty member in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Vermont.  He is also a member of the Williston, VT Conservation Commission for over 25 years.  Hawley’s research interests include assessments of forest genetics and physiological responses to environmental stresses such as climate change and anthropogenic pollution.  He has been involved in several American chestnut research projects including cold tolerance assessments, evaluation of the growth of multiple seed sources and performance of blight resistant hybrids relative to other forest tree species. This work is being conducted with the TACF and US Forest Service.  Hawley also has been heavily involved and has directed many of the activities surrounding the green renovation of the Aiken Center and other Rubenstein School buildings at the University of Vermont.  This nearly 20-year process includes teaching a yearly course titled “The Greening of Rubenstein Interns” that has guided students through many aspects of energy efficiency upgrades and is currently pushing ahead to Net Zero Energy for these buildings.

Bill Coder – Secretary

Bill joined TACF after happening upon an educational orchard around 2000 and then became active in the VT/NH Chapter upon moving to Bedford, NH in 2014. A retired engineer, Bill volunteers at several environment focused organizations. The idea for an educational chestnut planting at NH Audubon in Concord resulted from his volunteer connections in both organizations, forming a full circle with how he first became aware of the American chestnut story.

Will Abbott – Treasurer

Will and his wife Alicia live in Holderness, NH, in a home that they purchased in 1993 with the help of a local realtor named Doug McLane. Will recently retired from the Society for the Protection of NH Forests, where he ran the public policy shop and oversaw the stewardship of the Society’s 57,000 acres of forest land. He has had a life-long fascination with trees, particularly the American Chestnut and the American Elm, and the potential to restore each to their original range.

Yurij Bihun

Yurij Bihun is a Vermont-based forester with experience in sustainable forest management, tree improvement, international development, and protected area management. In addition to teaching, research, and writing, he has had a wide spectrum of on-the-ground experience with the management of forest ecosystem services. His work in the conservation of forest ecosystems led to his interest in the restoration of natural landscapes and the challenge of returning American chestnut as a functional component our native woodlands. He was on the National Board of Directors of TACF from 2013-2019 and President of the VT/NH Chapter from 2014-2020.

Tom Estill

My caring for, and interest in, the outdoors has been a lifelong passion of mine. It carried over into my career as a science educator with a BA in biology and MEd in Env. Sci. Ed. One of my greatest joys in life is sharing what I have learned in the outdoors with others. I currently serve as a volunteer Sci. Ed. Specialist at a school in Rutland, VT and as a Naturalist at Pine Hill Park, also in Rutland, where, among other things, I look over the care of 50 American Chestnuts. I am also in charge of the Rutland GCO, and am in the middle of planting American chestnut seedlings in each of the schools in Rutland as an Ed. and Outreach activity. It is so rewarding to know I am a part of the movement to help bring back the American Chestnut.

Dr. Gillian Galford

Dr. Gillian Galford is an expert in ecosystems ecology and global change. In addition to research and teaching at the University of Vermont in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources and Gund Institute for Environment, Dr. Galford leads the Vermont Climate Assessment. Her research spans from the forests of Vermont to the Amazon. 

Dr. Ann Hazelrigg

Ann has been a plant pathologist with UVM Extension for 35 years. She is the Director of the Plant Diagnostic Clinic and works with farmers and gardeners to diagnose insect, disease and weed problems. She is involved in many research projects that typically focus on diseases and organic agriculture. In her spare time she is a struggling fiddler and is excited to add chestnuts to her home arboretum!

Curt Laffin

Curt Laffin, and his wife Carol, have actively participated in nearly all types of VT/NH Chapter activities, especially outreach and communication. Curt is a wildlife biologist retired from the US Fish & wildlife Service. He and Carol live in Hudson, NH.

Lewis LeClair

Doug McLane

Doug McLane and his wife Sue have been active in chestnut restoration since the formation of the VT/NH Chapter. Doug’s favorite activity is tending the Chapter nursery and the ever-growing germplasm conservation orchard here in Plymouth, NH. It is a pleasure to have a chance to lead our Chapter into the challenging future of chestnuts.

Jess Wikle

Jess Wikle is the Manager of the UVM Research Forests and a faculty member in the forestry program. Prior to moving to Vermont, she worked as a consulting forester in southern New England. She is excited about the prospect of healthy chestnuts returning to New England forests some time in the future.

Science Contact – Kendra Collins (non-voting)

Marshall Case, Emeritus (non-voting)

 

Vermont / New Hampshire 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
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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.
... See MoreSee Less

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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