Planting a Comeback

The American chestnut, once an essential part of the Eastern U.S.forestry ecology and economy, was nearly eradicated by a fungal disease in the early 1900s. However, Georgia-Pacific and The American Chestnut Foundation are working together to reestablish the American chestnut in its native habitat.

Recently, GP and The American Chestnut Foundation planted 560 test chestnut saplings at the Big Island, Va. mill, an event that marks the first corporate collaboration with The American Chestnut Foundation and an important step towards restoring the American chestnut.

“This re-establishment of the American chestnut aligns well with our commitments to being good stewards of the environment and enhancing the sustainability of Virginia’s forests,” said Eldon Brammer, Big Island mill vice president. “We feel fortunate to be able to help in some small way and be a part of this historic effort.”
The Big Island mill has made a 20-year commitment to provide and manage a protected plot of land on which The American Chestnut Foundation can monitor the saplings in a natural setting. The saplings are products of 25 years of genetic back crossing with the Chinese chestnut, a blight-resistant species.

The saplings are 15/16 American chestnut and are expected to have American chestnut attributes, but retain the blight resistance of the Chinese chestnut. The 560 saplings were planted and grouped in several different “families,” each representing slight genetic variations. Part of the monitoring over the next 20 years will include seeing if any particular genetic mix is more successful than the others.

“The plantings represent a conservation success story and reflect the power that alliances can have in bringing a ‘mighty giant’ back to its native range. Thanks to our support from GP, we are making critical progress in restoring the American chestnut,” said Bryan Burhans, president & CEO of The American Chestnut Foundation.


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