On August 10, 2022

Time is everything in forest restoration

By Gary Salmon

The mortality figures are astonishing among the three tree species nearly eliminated from our eastern and Midwestern landscape by either chestnut blight (Cryphonectria parasitica), Dutch elm disease (Ophiostoma novo-ulmi), and now emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis). Four billion chestnut trees killed since blight introduction in 1904 (most between 1930s and ’50s and continues today). Seventy-seven million American elms killed since the disease appeared in the 1920s and continues today. And the most recent, emerald ash borer, has killed millions of ash since its introduction in Michigan in 2002 and continues today. All three have killed their way through Vermont destroying trees in both the urban and forest landscape. It was the trees within our urban landscape that most raised tree loss awareness and resulted in the investment of money and science aimed at preventing spread, finding “cures” and/or minimizing possible tree extinction. And thanks to those efforts we now have been able to retain and/or restore in some measure all three to our streets.

The difficult part in restoration efforts as a species, however, is returning those species back to the forest environment from which they were eliminated. Over time two restoration efforts are making progress (elms and chestnuts). Both the Nature Conservancy (with U.S. Forest Service assistance) and the American Chestnut Foundation have programs evolving for restoring elms and chestnuts to the forested landscape. Elms were once part of an entire forest type (ash, elm, red maple) with elms often being the larger of the three species. The Nature Conservancy is using a three year effort to plant some 7,000 elms (with some immunity to DED) in floodplain forests within the Connecticut and Champlain River Valleys. Likewise chestnut, although at the northern end of its range in Vermont and thus not as common, was a thriving part of the eastern forest growing to huge sizes and numbers. The American Chestnut Foundation, using blight resistant and locally adapted chestnuts, has established chestnut breeding orchards whose progeny will be reintroduced into eastern forests. The VT/NH chapter of TACF along with Vermont State Parks created a breeding orchard in 2013 at Lake St. Catherine State Park in Poultney and it is thriving with several trees now exceeding 20 feet in height.

Since EAB is a work in progress forest recommendations will change as knowledge about the borer grows. For now don’t cut all ash within a forest but do reduce the ash component if it exceeds 20%. Leave scattered ash growing and retain good quality trees of a variety of species. Manage the forest if possible to encourage as much ash regeneration as possible. Time will tell (measured in decades) if any of these three forest species will ever return or stay in their rightful forest environment. But as the Lorax says, “unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

Do you want to submit feedback to the editor?

Send Us An Email!

Related Posts

Native cherry trees: spring beauty, ecological gold

May 15, 2024
Each spring, cities from New York to Texas celebrate the spectacular blooming of ornamental cherry trees. In many cultures, the lovely, delicate pink and white cherry blossoms symbolize rebirth and renewal, as well as the fleeting nature of life. Beyond these showy cultivated trees, our region boasts three native cherry species, which are important in…

Remembering downtown pharmacists from yesteryear

May 15, 2024
When I saw the obituary for Lucian Wiskoski back in March I realized that he was the last of Rutland’s downtown pharmacists whom I had the pleasure of knowing from childhood into adulthood. Back in the ‘50s five pharmacies were located in downtown Rutland. They were: Shangraw’s, Carpenter’s, Carroll Cut Rate, McClallen’s, and Beauchamp &…

Absorbed and absorbing the moguls of Superstar

May 15, 2024
I couldn’t find my center of balance for the life of me. A few days off from skiing and I felt like a fish flopping about on dry land. I would get stuck in the rut and get launched upwards and then I could feel my weight slamming into the back of my boots. The…

It was 30 years ago today

May 15, 2024
I never dreamed of being a writer, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. It was an early morning in 1994, and I was standing in the composition department of the Mountain Times, having been hired the prior year as a part-time graphic artist. Computers were just coming onto…