By Bill Adamsen
CT-TACF Board Member Jim Gage participates in several Forestry related forums – the Mass/Conn Sustainable Forest Partnership and the NEFF – both of which have been hosted at the Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary in Wales, Massachusetts. At one of the meetings, Jim and Dan Donahue – active on the Mass/Conn Steering Committee, and Director of Land Protection & Stewardship at the Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary – had been talking about the American chestnut’s role in the forest, and progress and needs of the American Chestnut Foundation’s restoration efforts. The conversation turned to our search for suitable sites for Seed Orchards, the next stage of the breeding program, and Dan asked if this was a program in which the Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary could participate.
On Wednesday the First of April, Jim and I met with Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary Staff to discuss the requirements for a CT Chapter seed orchard. Dan and Sanctuary Director Matt Pooler had already been considering what their level of involvement might be, and before the discussions were over, they pulled out a map and asked if the property shown might be suitable as one of the research orchards. We had the added pleasure of getting to speak with Norcross Wildlife Foundation Executive Director Karen Outlaw. The American Chestnut Foundation has a long history of working with the Norcross Wildlife Foundation, and the CT Chapter especially received critical financial support during a period of growth back in 2006, when that funding was essential to us achieving our goals.
Dan, Jim and I drove the short distance from the Headquarters in Wales to inspect the site which is located in Stafford, Connecticut. The Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary property has excellent access, Paxton-Montauk and Woodbridge fine sandy loams, excellent sun aspect, and ponds with year-round water suitable for irrigation. A more perfect site would be hard to find. The process steps to integrate the site into our matrix of research orchards have already started. The Norcross Wildlife Foundation has a signed Germplasm Agreement with the American Chestnut Foundation, and we’ll want to draft out a land use agreement which sets out the expectations of both parties. Typically the Connecticut Chapter has paid for orchard related expenses, and those were discussed in some detail with the Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary Staff. There would be some site work required, not the least of which includes soil and other tests to determine the best location for the research plot. We’ve just started the process of inoculating the BC3F1 trees at our Backcross Orchards, so the selection, roguing and open pollination process is yet to begin. With luck we’ll have our first generation of intercross nuts to start planting in the spring of 2016, and with the Norcross Wildlife Sanctuaries generous support, a fantastic location to begin that process.
For more information on the requirements of and for a seed orchard, please read Siting Seed Orchards.
Top is a panorama photo of the site visit showing the extensive “snow covered” field and farmhouse of the Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary Preserve.