U.S. Department of the Interior

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__________________________ FOREST RECLAMATION ADVISORIES __________________________ FORESTRY RECLAMATION APPROACH __________________________
__________________________ MINED LAND REFORESTATION CONFERENCES __________________________ PLANTING TREES ON LEGACY MINES __________________________ REFORESTATION AWARDS __________________________ REFORESTATION RESEARCH __________________________ STATE AND PRIVATE NURSERIES __________________________ STATEMENT OF MUTUAL INTENT




ARRI and The American Chestnut Foundation [TACF] have joined forces in a partnership to combine the forestry reclamation of mine sites with restoration of the majestic American chestnut tree to its former place of dominance in the Appalachian hardwood ecosystem. 

Restoring the American Chestnut on
Mined Lands in Appalachia

The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) Logo and ARRI logo.

The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) and The Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative (ARRI) have partnered to include American chestnuts and TACF’s potentially blight resistant chestnuts on reclaimed mines that utilize the Forestry Reclamation Approach (FRA). Beginning in 2008, ARRI and TACF initiated a program named “Operation Springboard” to use reclaimed surface mines as a springboard for chestnut dispersal into surrounding forests throughout American chestnut’s native range, based on the assumption that chestnuts could be successfully established on reclaimed areas.  The chestnuts on many of these plantings showed phenomenal growth and survival.  Encouraged by these successful plantings, ARRI and TACF are continuing to plant pure American chestnuts on mined lands to help preserve American chestnuts’ genetics and to test the suitability of different mined sites for chestnut restoration in anticipation of widespread release of TACF’s blight resistant chestnuts.  In 2011, TACF was awarded a National Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) through the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service to take Operation Springboard to the next level.  This grant will establish 12 plantings on reclaimed mines in 2012-2014 in Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia.  Each planting will be approximately 30 acres on sites reclaimed using the FRA and will include TACF’s potentially blight-resistant chestnuts and a public outreach component.  The CIG plantings will allow us to examine the levels of blight resistance in TACF’s backcross chestnuts and also how well they compete against other commonly used reclamation species.

WHY SURFACE MINES? Reforestation experts and university researchers believe that surface mines will make excellent planting sites for re-introducing the American chestnut back into its native range for numerous reasons. The Appalachian coal fields are at the center of the chestnut’s native range. When the FRA is used, trees grow very fast, which means that they can reach reproductive maturity very quickly and their nuts can be carried into the surrounding forest by animals much sooner. The use of tree-compatible herbaceous cover means that there is much less competition interfering with chestnut seedlings compared to that found on old agricultural fields or clear-cut forests. Chestnuts once dominated ridge top positions, which is where many surface mines are found. Finally, scientists suspect that a root rot disease which kills chestnuts might be less aggressive in well-drained mine soils. Coal mines reclaimed using the Forestry Reclamation Approach (FRA), the reclamation technique advocated by ARRI, offer several advantages for large-scale chestnut re-population. Across the Appalachian Region there are thousands of acres of land mined for coal and reclaimed every year. So, there are numerous sites that can be made suitable for the successful re-introduction of American chestnut trees. These lands can be pioneer sites for the spread of chestnuts from mature trees into the adjacent forest lands, through wildlife activity.

The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) has been working for more than 25 years to develop a blight resistant chestnut population that will be used to repopulate the eastern forests. The trees developed by TACF are 15/16 American chestnut in character, but should retain the blight resistance inherited from Chinese chestnuts. TACF has recently begun producing these trees, which they are calling “Restoration Chestnuts 1.0.” The hope is that these trees will have the growth form and characteristics of American chestnuts and the blight resistance of Chinese chestnuts.

WHAT ARE THE 5 STEPS OF THE FRA? The 5 steps of the FRA technique listed below have been confirmed by forestry research. ARRI has determined that the FRA can be implemented under current Federal and State regulations:

  1. Create a suitable rooting medium for good tree growth that is no less than 4 feet deep and comprised of topsoil, weathered sandstone and/or the best available material;
  2. Loosely grade the topsoil or topsoil substitutes established in step one to create a non-compacted growth medium;
  3. Use native and non-competitive ground covers that are compatible with growing trees;
  4. Plant two types of trees – early succession species for wildlife and soil stability, and commercially valuable crop trees; and
  5. Use proper tree planting techniques

For more detailed information about the FRA technique described above please view ARRI's Forest Reclamation Advisories and read the 5 informational documents written by the ARRI Science Team.

HOW CAN I PARTICIPATE? Contact the ARRI Team Member in your state and indicate your interest in participating in Operation Springboard or contact Michael French ( of TACF for information about the Conservation Innovation Grant.

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