In no place is the optimism of the American chestnut restoration more evident than on the barren slopes of abandoned mines on the tops of Appalachian mountains.
Here, where entire mountain tops have been blasted off and the rubble pushed into valleys, hybrid American chestnuts, including Restoration Chestnut 1.0 trees, are being planted to reclaim the ruined landscape, as well as provide information essential to the widespread re-establishment of a stronger, disease-resistant tree.
Old-timers said that these ridge tops once looked like they were covered in snow during June and July because of all the flowering chestnut trees, according to Michael French, restoration specialist for The American Chestnut Foundation. “When you look at the surface mines today, that’s where most of them are, up high where chestnuts were dominant before the chestnut blight.”
New techniques in reforesting these surface mines may offer one of the best opportunities to reintroduce the hybrid restoration chestnut — an opportunity that is being exploited by The American Chestnut Foundation through multiple projects and partnerships.