Saturday, August 30, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Trees, trees -- new plantings everywhere

It's certainly been a busy Arbor Day. By day's end, thousands of newbies will be in the region and not far beyond, beginning to soak up carbon dioxide, shade our streets and generally make things prettier.

Trees, trees -- new plantings everywhere

It's certainly been a busy Arbor Day.

By day's end, thousands of newbies will be in the region and not far beyond, beginning to soak up carbon dioxide, shade our streets and generally make things prettier.

One of the coolest projects I learned about was the American Chestnut Foundation planting 1,000 potentially blight-resistant chestnuts -- plus other mixed hardwood -- on 22 acres of a reclaimed coal mine site in Schuylkill County.

So not only are they helping the site with trees, they're also using it as a test ground for chestnuts into which they have bred blight-resistance. This effort started long ago, and it involved "back-cross" and "intercross" breeding of American chestnut remnants with Chinese chestnuts, which are resistant to the blight that knocked out nearly all our natives.

Here's the simple version of how it goes: You cross and American and a Chinese chestnut.  You grow out the trees and take all the ones that are blight-resistant and cross those with American chestnuts. And so on. The trees planted today are the result of multiple crossings and are 94 percent American.

The Schuylkill County project begins multi-year effort by the foundation to 12 reclaimed mine sites in Pennsylvania and four more states -- Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia and Kentucky. The work is being funded in part by a Conservation Innovation Grant from the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Services.

The goal is to plant about 250,000 seedlings, including more than 14,000 blight-resistant America chestnuts, on a total of 360 acres.

"This project is the largest planting of potentially blight-resistant American chestnut trees in the Foundation’s history and marks a milestone in the restoration of this once dominant native tree," the foundation said in a press release.

"Once the mighty giants of the eastern forests, American chestnuts stood up to 100 feet tall, and numbered in the billions. They were a vital part of the forest ecology, a key food source for wildlife and an essential component of the human economy. In 1904, a blight accidentally imported from Asia, spread rapidly through the American chestnut population. By 1950 it had killed virtually all the mature trees from Maine to Georgia," the foundation said.

In New Jersey, more than 300 volunteers helped the Department of Environmental Protection’s Community Forestry Program, the New Jersey Community Forestry Council, and the New Jersey Tree Foundation planted more than 100 trees along the streets of Haddon Township and in Crystal Lake Park in Camden County.

“Today we recognize the importance of trees, their beauty and ecological value, and applaud those committed to tree planting and care across New Jersey,” said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin. “We especially salute Haddon Township this year for their hard work to develop a healthy, safe and sustainable forest canopy in their town, to help create a greener and better environment for their residents.”

I was glad to see they weren't planting any ash trees, which are going to be hard hit by the emerald ash borer. The species included sugar maple, willow oak, flowering dogwood, blackgum, Okame cherry, London plane tree, Greenspire linden, and swamp white oak.

But, alas, some trees come and some trees go. New Jersey has announced a plan to clear-cut 200 trees on Bull's Island State Park, south of Stockton. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility has criticized the decision, saying it was done without public notice or a restoration plan. The decision came after a sycamore tree fell, killing a camper and injuring his wife. In March, the DEP announced it was closing the north end of the island, where the campground is.

Earlier today, the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society announced a plan to plant 3,400 trees in five communities _ the City of Chester and Millbourne Borough in Delaware County; Norristown in Montgomery County; and New Hope Borough and Warminster Township in Bucks County.

It's being funded by a grant from PennVest, an independent agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania which provides funding for drinking water programs, storm water management, brownfield assessments, and more.

The trees will be going into streetscapes, parks, schools, and other public properties such as municipal halls and libraries.

On Monday, the Phillies and Aramark will announce a new program to support the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's "Plant One Million" campaign to add a million trees to the canopy over the Philly region.

Stay tuned for more details.

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
About this blog

GreenSpace is about environmental issues and green living. Bauers also writes a biweekly GreenSpace column about environmental health issues for the Inquirer’s Sunday “Health” section.

Sandy Bauers is the environment reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter and editor. She lives in northern Chester County with her husband, two cats, a large vegetable garden and a flock of pet chickens.

Reach Sandy at sbauers@phillynews.com.

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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