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New sign marks chestnut orchard at PCSWCD’s Law Farm

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DOVER-FOXCROFT — At one time in the nation’s history, the American chestnut tree covered more than 200 million acres of the eastern U.S. as the wood supported the economy and citizens’ way of life and chestnuts served as a primary food source for wildlife, livestock and people. In the late 19th century a fungal pathogen causing chestnut blight arrived from Asia, and by 1950 it killed an estimated four billion trees.

The American Chestnut Foundation is working to bring the species back, using backcross breeding to produce potentially blight-resistant American chestnuts to return the iconic tree to its native range.

The Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District (PCSWCD) is part of the effort with its American chestnut germplasm conservation orchard at the Law Farm on the Lee Cemetery Road. A sign informing visitors of the orchard, with over 100 seedlings, was installed during the late afternoon on Aug. 2.

piscataquis county soil and water conservation district

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
AMERICAN CHESTNUT GERMPLASM CONSERVATION ORCHARD — Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District Executive Director Sarah Robinson drills in a final screw for the sign at the district’s American chestnut germplasm conservation orchard at the Law Farm in Dover-Foxcroft on Aug. 2 as district directors Gordon Moore, left, and Toby Hall look on. The informative sign was provided to the district by The Commons at Central Hall with funds awarded to The Commons from the Quimby Family Foundation for upgrades at the Law Farm.

In February The Commons at Central Hall provided the PCSWCD with funds awarded to The Commons from the Quimby Family Foundation to make updates to the Law Farm. These monies were used for new signage, privy upgrades and new benches to increase public use of the existing trails for multi-generational use.

With collaboration from the University of Maine Acting Director of Cooperative Forestry Research Unit Brian Roth, Foxcroft Academy science teachers Robert Weber and Brian Krause and Thomas Klak of the American Chestnut Foundation Maine chapter’s board directors, 104 seedlings were planted on July 18, 2017.

The PCSWCD oversees the chestnut germplasm — living genetic resources such as seeds — conservation orchard. District officials believe the orchard at the Law Farm is one of only four in the state, and the 100-plus future chestnut trees are surrounded by an electric fence to help keep out wildlife. The district partnered with the American Chestnut Foundation, University of Maine and University of New England to plant the seedlings last year.

The brand new sign informs visitors of what is inside the fence and the effort to restore the American chestnut.

Piscataquis Soil and Water Conservation District

Observer photo/Stuart Hedstrom
RESTORING THE AMERICAN CHESTNUT — Piscataquis County Soil and Water Conservation District stand by the newly-installed sign for the district’s American chestnut germplasm conservation orchard at the Law Farm in Dover-Foxcroft on Aug. 2. The orchard contains over 100 American chestnut seedlings. From left are district directors Janet Sawyer, Bruce Talley, Toby Hall and Gordon Moore and Executive Director Sarah Robinson.

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