Twice in the past year the University of the South has hosted plantings of potentially blight-resistant American chestnut seedlings (Restoration Chestnuts 1.0) on campus. On Feb. 16, Sewanee students joined other volunteers to plant a mix of hardwoods including these chestnuts on a property adjacent to Camp McDowell in Alabama.
Green Forests Work led the planting effort on the site that was formerly a surface coal mine. The organization focuses on restoring the native forests to mine-scarred lands throughout Appalachia while creating a foundation for sustainable economic development. Local American Chestnut Foundation chapter members and about 40 student volunteers planted more than 5,000 seedlings and 50 Restoration Chestnuts 1.0, with students from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, University of Alabama at Huntsville and Samford University joining 16 volunteers from Sewanee.
A host of Sewanee connections contributed to the success of the weekend. Arden Jones, C’13, heard about the event through Angie Langevin, C’10, an acquaintance of Nathan Hall, reforestation coordinator of Green Forests Work. Jones then organized the Sewanee delegation. Jack Agricola, C’72, is president of the Alabama Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF). Camp McDowell and executive director Rev. Mark Johnston, C’72, T’80, hosted the students for the evening.
Jones said, “I was ecstatic, but not at all surprised, that so many students wanted to dedicate their weekend to this trip. The tree planting was a great success and a fun way to network with environmentally-minded students from other universities.
“The experience was a way we could be directly involved in remediation of land that has been ecologically ruined for the purpose of extracting coal. Experiences like this help us realize the consequences of our energy use. The willing involvement of so many students speaks to our commitment to moving away from dependence on fossil fuels.”
Sewanee students who participated were Arden Jones, Nancy Lilly, Elise Landreaux, Eileen Schaeffer, Mary Emma Kingsley, Jane Brown, Christina Quinn, Sarah Delong, Christopher Murphree, Ross Scarborough, Becca Hannigan, John Lampley, Annya Shalun, Caroline Gebhart, Monique Stitts, and Noni Hill.
“This project was an ideal opportunity for us to plant and monitor our potentially blight-resistant chestnuts, while helping to restore a damaged environment,” said Agricola.
Restoration Chestnuts 1.0 are the result of 30 years of research and scientific effort by TACF to restore a once-dominant tree to American forests. The organization is planting Restoration Chestnuts in select locations throughout the eastern U.S. as part of its restoration and testing efforts.
Jones expressed thanks to the clubs and organizations that made the trip possible: the Office of Environmental Stewardship & Sustainability, the Forestry and Geology Club, the Sustainability House, the Peace Coalition, and the Green House, saying, “It is great to have so much support on campus!”
The last of 50 chestnut seedlings goes in the ground.