Coal Creek
Watershed Foundation
joins effort to
restore the
American Chestnut


Photo from Rivertyde

chestnut tree.jpg (13204 bytes)
Photo from appalachianwoods.com

Tennessee history buffs have heard the story about the Tennessee Militia cutting all the trees on Militia Hill when Fort Anderson was built during the Coal Creek War in 1892.  Soldiers wanted a clear line of fire when fighting Coal Creek miners who opposed the use of convicts in the mines.  What you may not know is that many of those trees were American chestnuts.  Prior to the chestnut blight of the early 1900s, one-fourth of the trees in Appalachian forests were American chestnuts.

The Coal Creek Watershed Foundation (CCWF) is proceeding with plans to restore the site of Fort Anderson on Militia Hill and preserve this important part of Tennessee history.  The restoration plan includes planting American chestnuts and we have joined the Appalachian Regional Reforestation Initiative (ARRI) and The American Chestnut Foundation (TACF) in preparation for the work on Militia Hill.

Fort Anderson on Militia Hill
looking up from the
Knoxville Iron and Coal Company
convict stockade in 1892

ARRI is a coalition of citizen groups, landowners, the coal industry, and government, dedicated to restoring forests on coal mined lands in the Eastern United States.  ARRI advocates the use of a technique known as the Forestry Reclamation Approach (FRA) to prepare mine sites by leaving loose, rocky ground at the surface, which is conducive to planting and growing trees.  Experience shows that forestland created on reclaimed mine lands using the FRA method can be more productive than in natural forests.   


Comparison of trees of the same age
grown on loose, rocky mine spoil
(FRA method), compacted soil,
and in a natural forest

TACF has been backcrossing and intercrossing American and Chinese chestnuts for the past 25 years to develop a hybrid that retains the virtues of the American chestnut, but with the blight resistance of its Chinese cousin.  Blight-resistant seeds are still 5 to 10 years away from mass distribution, but mine lands are already being prepared by the FRA method to accelerate the American chestnut restoration effort.

In order to gain the needed expertise in preparing sites and developing planting techniques, CCWF volunteers will participate in “Operation Springboard 2008", the first major American chestnut restoration effort on mine land in Tennessee on Friday, March 14, 2008.  National Coal Corporation of Knoxville has reclaimed two mine sites on Zeb Mountain in Campbell County by the FRA method.  Approximately 500 American chestnut seeds will be planted alongside other hardwood seedlings being planted as part of the normal reclamation of the sites. 

Most of these American chestnut trees will probably succumb to the blight, but some may have characteristics which enable them to fend off the blight and survive to reproduction, serving as a valuable part of the tree cover on the sites for many years.  By planting pure stock in 2008, valuable information will be obtained regarding planting techniques and site requirements that will be necessary for successful establishment of hybrid chestnuts on reclaimed mine lands in the near future.

The expertise that CCWF volunteers gain in planting the American chestnuts on Zeb Mountain will be applied to Coal Creek when Militia Hill and other historic sites are restored.  Besides, if we expect other organization to help in our restoration efforts, then we must first be willing to help them.


Bagged Flowers: 
Chestnut flowers are bagged after being hand pollinated to ensure a controlled pollination for production of nuts with a known lineage


Mined area at Zeb Mountain planting site
previously covered with compacted
soil according to traditional reclamation
procedures is being prepared by the
FRA method for planting trees


Mine site prepared by the FRA method
planted with early succession trees and
hardwoods shown after three years of growth

Volunteers interested in planting American chestnut seeds on Zeb Mountain in Elk Valley, Tennessee, on Friday, March 14, 2008, contact Carol Moore at (865) 584-0344 or clmoore@geoe.com for more details. 

Finally, April 7, 2008 is Arbor Day in Tennessee.  We will accompany students from Elk Valley Elementary School to the Zeb Mountain FRA planting site where they will plant American Chestnut seeds and seedlings and learn about Operation Springboard.

Read story from The Courier News

Read story from the Knoxville News Sentinel

Zeb Mountain Mine in Tennessee

Tip Top Mine in Kentucky

Heartland Series Video on NBC-TV

SLIDESHOW AND AUDIO: 
http://hosted.ap.org/specials/interactives/_national/chestnut_trees/index.html

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