Burrillville Land Trust’s latest grant will boost efforts to reintroduce American Chestnut Tree

Edmund Croteau - co-vice president of the Burrillville Land Trust plants one of the newly acquired American Chestnut trees from Georgia. The BLT hopes that small genetic difference in trees from east of the Mississippi will result in big changes to the disease resistant capabilities of the American Chestnut. Credit: Paul Roselli

BURRILLVILLE – The Burrillville Land Trust will receive a grant from the Champlin Foundation of $7,100 for the American Chestnut Tree germ plasm orchard on the Edward D. Vock Conservation Area in Pascoag.

For the last four years, the all-volunteer, private land trust has been planting American Chestnut trees on the Vock property from states east of the Mississippi.

“This grant will take our American Chestnut Tree planting to a whole different level,” said Paul Roselli, president of the land trust in a release on the news. “The American Chestnut tree use to be the dominant species in these woods. With the introduction of Cryphonectria parasitica, the causal agent of the chestnut blight, all of that changed. Within a matter of years nearly all the American Chestnut trees in this area succumbed and died due to the blight.”

The grant will help the land trust purchase a portable solar water pump and piping, an interpretative
sign for the planting and fencing to keep the deer away.

“The deer do a number on these trees,” said Edmund Croteau, co-vice president for the land trust and project manager for the planting. “Deer like chestnut leaves and once the tree produces nuts, the deer prefer those to any other nut around, including acorns. We need to keep the deer away till the trees get established.”

The grant was announced on Wednesday, Nov. 16 in an email from Nina Stack, executive director for the foundation. According to their web site, the Champlin Foundation supports public libraries, hospitals, schools, nature preserves, social service organizations, and more, funding yearly a diverse range of capital projects and needs. The land trust applied for the highly competitive grant in August 2022.

“We received nuts and trees from Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut and all over Rhode Island. This past summer we got the help of volunteers from Amica Insurance to plant 25 trees. And we’ve given away almost 100 American Chestnut trees to those who live in Burrillville,” Croteau explained.

“We hope that these American Chestnut trees from all over will have just enough genetic differences to produce nuts and trees that are resistant to the Chestnut tree blight,” Roselli said. “With this grant, the land trust can continue to give back to the people of Burrillville and the region for all their efforts in defeating the permitting of that power plant.”

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  1. Jason Richer, assuming you are identifying pure American chestnuts, (the fact they end up dying makes this more likely) you might want to read up about the transgenic blight resistant American chestnut tree which should hopefully receive regulatory approval for general distribution by next year. https://www.esf.edu/chestnut/about.asp

    They are encouraging people to plant pure American chestnut trees to breed with these trees in the future, because the transgenic tree will initially lack sufficient genetic diversity for general natural restoration and 50% of the offspring of the transgenic trees will be effectively blight resistant with a straightforward way to test which ones.

  2. I’ve picked and planted chestnuts from fruit baring trees in the area but they never make more than a few years before dying. If these are resistant trees, where can I get a few?

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