TACF New England Chapters Held Regional Meeting

On Saturday, March 20, 2010, the New England Chapters of The
American Chestnut Foundation® (TACF®)
met for a Regional Chapters meeting at the Urban Forestry Center in
Portsmouth, NH. The meeting was organized by Kendra Gurney, New
England Regional Science Coordinator for TACF. Approximately twenty
people attended, including Bryan Burhans, President of TACF. Jim Gage and Jack Ostroff represented the Connecticut chapter.

The discussions throughout the day were quite diverse, but included (among other topics):

  • Updating the Chestnut Growers Manual
  • TACF’s TreesDB project
  • Chapter strategic and tactical planning
  • Chapter Bylaws
  • TACF’s Restoration Plan and Restoration Branches
  • American chestnut range map
  • Possibility: regional seed orchards

Please note that this is only general overview, and not a complete “minutes” of the meeting. If you want any further information or details about any of the presentations or discussions, please contact any of the people involved directly.

The Chestnut Growers' Manual

The Chestnut Growers' Manual was originally created in 2006 by Sara Fitzsimmons (TACF’s Northern Appalachian Regional Science Coordinator) for use by the Pennsylvania chapter. She is currently working on revisions. However, because of regional differences in growing chestnuts, there was a suggestion that it also be used as the starting point for a New England specific manual. This idea was widely accepted, and there was significant discussion, with both general and specific suggestions for changes and additions. These included (but were not limited to):

  • some sections need additional explanation for beginners
  • better information and explanations regarding storage conditions for nuts (e.g., temperature, humidity, reatments, containers)
  • how to approach the range of soil and climate conditions across New England, possibly customizing or layering by USDA hardiness zone.
  • add a section on seed orchards
  • for both breeding and seed orchards, add information about overall orchard life cycle
  • add a section “What to do with Restoration Chestnuts.”
  • planting mix, including acceptable commercial mixes, as well as source and amount of added soil and other amendments
  • maintenance, especially deer control, including fencing and various repellents
  • planting details, including seed shelters
  • weed control – herbicides in general, Roundup®, what concentration to use
  • fertilizing, soil testing, fall fertilizing, use of slow release products
  • a strong reminder to read the label on any commercial product every year, since the information is subject to change
  • mapping orchards and labeling trees

If you have specific questions or suggestions, contact Kendra
(kendra at acf dot org).

TACF’s TreesDB project

Kendra presented a brief, general overview of the project. (Bill
Adamsen and Jack Ostroff are the main participants from the
Connecticut Chapter.)

Yvonne Federowicz of the MA/RI Chapter made a presentation
concerning levels of access to the data, once the system is in
production use. There was a lively discussion on this topic, touching on the different types of data to be included in the system, the general desire for openness of our scientific data, as well as privacy issues both of personal information and data such as tree or orchard location. (The issue of establishing a process for control and monitoring of access to the data has been discussed extensively by the project team, and the issue has been forwarded to the TACF Board of Directors for discussion at their meeting in April.)

There was also a discussion of whether the system could be used for tracking and estimating the cost of orchard management, and whether it might help determining the effect of use of various tools and techniques, such as BLUE-X® tubes.

Chapter strategic and tactical planning

There was a wide ranging discussion about terminology and types of planning, and the need for a wide range of plans – from
short-term tactical or operational plans for planting the next orchard and the next round of blight resistance testing to long range strategic plans for the eventual reforestation and return of the Chestnut to a situation closer to its previous position in the forest ecosystem.

Chapter Bylaws

The president of the VT/NH chapter started a discussion regarding
term length and term limits for chapter officers and board members.
There was no absolute consensus, but there was general agreement
that there was no single, optimal way to balance all the desired goals, which included obtaining fresh input and ideas as well as avoiding stagnation and complacency.

TACF’s Restoration Plan and Restoration Branches

Bryan Burhans discussed current TACF planning
activities. The Board is in process of producing an American
Chestnut Restoration Plan, which begins “Our overarching goal
is to position American chestnut to reoccupy its native range.” The current draft is undergoing significant review and revision, and will be discussed at the TACF Board meeting in April. A final version is expected later this year.

Similar to the earlier chapter planning discussion, it was
recognized that there are clearly issues of terminology. One major
difficulty with drafting the plan is that the very concept of chestnut restoration is logistically overwhelming. However, it was agreed that the plan was (properly) being driven by organizational needs rather than a specific label, and it needs to address potential conflicts in operational issues. There were several comments that the plan needs more chapter input; Bryan will discuss this with the group responsible for drafting the plan.

Bryan also discussed the relatively recent concept of Restoration
Branches. There is a document on Restoration Branches, but it is
still undergoing frequent revision before being more widely
disseminated. In response to questions and concerns, Bryan made it
clear that Restoration Branches are intended to be a tool for the
chapters and will not operate independently, and that they are
optional and it is completely up to each chapter whether or not to
use them. However, he also made it clear that he enthusiastically
supports the concept, and that the Pennsylvania chapter considers
their one active Branch to be successful.

American chestnut range map

A number of people have noted that there are known trees and
stands of American chestnut, located clearly outside of the
standard map of the historic range of the species, but that should
be included in the native chestnut range. This has potential
impact on the ability to get recognition or funding for restoration
activities. The question was raised whether it would be possible
to get the range map revised to account for any of these known
omissions. There was also some discussion of how to address this
issue in things such as grant applications.

Possibility: regional seed orchards

Over the next few years, the TACF breeding program will require
the establishment of seed orchards, which have some notable
differences from the current breeding orchards. Recognizing that
seed orchards require significant resources, and that not all
chapters are at the same stage in the backcross breeding process,
it was suggested that regional seed orchards (joint efforts by more
than one chapter) might be a useful approach. There was general
agreement, but also a recognition that there would probably be
significant organizational issues to address before this was
possible.

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Bill Adamsen

Bill Adamsen

Bill Adamsen is a member of the CT Chapter of The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) Board of Directors. He served as Chapter President for eight years.

Bill Adamsen

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