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Allegheny National Forest Planting

Students mark planting sites.

Students work together to plant a tree.

On April 21 and 25, high school students at the Tidioute Community Charter School in Tidioute, Pennsylvania, dug into forest research by volunteering to plant backcross American chestnut seedlings on the Allegheny National Forest. Their work will help Northern Research Station scientist Leila Pinchot and her colleagues better understand the conditions necessary for reintroducing an iconic tree back into the landscape.

For scientists, the prospect of a blight-resistant American chestnut tree poses another question: after American chestnuts have been gone for a century, how do foresters reintroduce them to the landscape? To address the question, specifically for the Allegheny National Forest (ANF), Pinchot and her colleagues established a 10-year study to evaluate the influence of light availability and abundance of competing seedlings on long-term growth and survival of hybrid American chestnut seed and seedlings in the context of regional forest management approaches.

As part of the work day, the students communed with old-growth hemlock trees at Hearts Content Recreation Area while learning about the local forest history and current forest health challenges. The ANF is facing significant changes due to numerous forest health threats, including hemlock woolly adelgid, beech bark disease and emerald ash borer.  These challenges highlight the importance of work to restore tree species impacted by non-native pests and pathogens, like American chestnut.

This project was made possible by generous grants from The National Forest Foundation and TACF’s External Grants Program.  Other collaborators include The University of Tennessee Tree Improvement Program, The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, and Penn State, Dubois.