The first large scale planting blight resistant chestnut is done-

When the chestnut blight hit in the 1950s, there were probably 3 billion American chestnut trees in the United States. Now there are perhaps only about a hundred trees in its natural range. The demise of the chestnut was a blow to wildlife that ate their prolific and reliable nut crop. The current die off of whitebark pine from a blight and bark beetles is a more recent catastrope.

There is now good news for the return of the American chestnut, The mighty American chestnut tree, poised for a comeback. By Juliet Elperin. Washington Post.  Of course, it will take a hundred years for a widespread restoration, one that will have big ecological benefits.

The American chestnut’s blight resistance was created by crossing it with the highly resistant Chinese chestnut in way that retained essentially all the details of the American chestnut. Perhaps a similar restoration can be done for the whitebark pine, although I suppose the preferred method might be direct genetic manipulation of survivors because of a lack of closely related pines.

I think we will need more and more genetic science to keep our ecosystems from unravelling in this rapidly changing world.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

9 Responses to Is the American Chestnut ready to begin its restoration?

  1. PointsWest says:

    It sounds great for the American Chestnut but I have to tell you that all this genetic tinkering scares me like some sci-fi horror movie.

  2. JimT says:

    I grew up in a small town in Vermont and upstate NY where the chestnuts were plentiful and just gorgeous trees. I would like to see them back, but it always seems anytime an Eastern plant gets here, it turns invasive.

  3. Nancy says:

    JimT said:+but it always seems anytime an Eastern plant gets here, it turns invasive+

    That also seems to apply to humans who come from the east (or the west coast) if they happen to be concerned about the enviornment or wildlife JT.

  4. PointsWest,

    It is scary. Look at the “Starlink corn” and the “Roundup ready” soybeans, but that genie is out of the bottle. We need to promote positive uses as well.

  5. JimT says:

    I don’t think of myself as invasive..I am trying to get along with my local environment..;*)

    • Nancy says:

      JT, didn’t mean to imply nor did I think of myself as “invasive” either til I started questioning the “same ole, same ole” approach thats been prevalent for years in this part of west.

      Have I seen abuse to public lands because of livestock grazing – yes. Have I seen wildlife abused on public lands because of livestock grazing – a definate yes!

      Over the years, I’ve witnessed many, many fly overs to control (and shot) coyotes. In the last 10 years its been all about wolves. Millions of taxpayer dollars were and have been wasted because livestock raisers somehow feel entitled to a “mafia” style protection (WS) rather than being forced, fined, or whatever it might take, when it comes to “sharing” what’s left of wilderness areas with wildlife (which by the way, they get dirt, dirt cheap)

  6. JimT says:

    And now, we are about to subjected to Franken Salmon..and won’t know if the salmon you eat is GMO or not because they won’t required to have a label that says so..

    The real danger is when these fish get out and interbreed with wild salmon…There are days that I am convinced the human species is out to kill itself off…Lemming Syndrome.

    • pointswest says:

      Greed is good! It drives us to exploit the planet and our fellow human beings in never ending quest to sate the ego.

    • JimT,

      In an economic sense, failure to provide important information such as this about a product is an offense against the free market system, which assumes that buyers and sellers are, or at least can be, informed about what they are doing.

      A host of problems like this is one reason why America’s economic system is not really a free market system. And it is regretting worse as corporations find it cheaper to buy politicians than make good products.


October 2010


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey