News Release

Emmy Award-Winning Adventurer, Naturalist and Media Host Patrick McMillan to Give Keynote Address at 2012 American Chestnut Summit in Asheville, NC

September 27, 2012

Asheville, NC — The American Chestnut Foundation and USDA Forest Service are pleased to announce that renowned adventurer and naturalist Patrick McMillan, host of the award-winning ETV nature program Expeditions with Patrick McMillan, will deliver the keynote address at the 2012 American Chestnut Summit on October 20th. Patrick's presentation will focus on the long lasting impacts that mankind's choices and actions have on the natural world. “The fate of the American chestnut,” Patrick says, “is one example of how our choices have resulted in profound impacts on our world. From the Piedmont forests to the mysterious shell rings of the Carolina coast our actions can be seen hundreds, indeed thousands of years later."

The keynote address will be just one of the event's eighteen presentations and workshops covering the history, culture and ecology of chestnuts, as well as the science of restoring them to the eastern forests. The weekend programs will include scientific and technical presentations, as well as hands-on workshops in chestnut identification, pest control, planting and maintenance.

The 2012 American Chestnut Summit runs from October 19-21 and is expected to attract scientists, conservationists, environmental and forestry teachers and students  and a wide range of people interested in the future of the eastern forests and the restoration of the American chestnut.

Other event highlights will include a gala dinner featuring the music of award winning singer songwriter Sarah Tucker and guitarist Elijah McWilliams. The dinner will also feature a presentation by Dr. James Hill Craddock, professor of biology at the University of Tennessee who will speak on the "Chestnut Industry Around the World."

“It is great to see this event held in Asheville,” says TACF President and CEO Bryan Burhans. “Western North Carolina was once home to some of the densest chestnut forests in the eastern U.S." Asheville's position in the heart of the original chestnut range, along with its rich cultural heritage were a big part of why TACF moved our national offices here in 2009."

“What makes this gathering special,” says Dr. Kier Klepzig, Assistant Director of the USDA Forest Service Southern Research Station and one of the event’s organizers, “is that so many entities are coming together with a common interest to offer a wide range of educational and entertaining  programs geared to anyone that is interested in the health and future of our eastern forests.”

Once the mighty giant of our 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 the early years of the twentieth century,  a fungus, accidentally imported from Asia, spread rapidly through the American chestnut population, and by 1950 the blight had killed virtually all the mature trees from Maine to Georgia. Several attempts to breed blight-resistant trees in the mid-1900s were unsuccessful.

Then in 1983, a dedicated group of scientists formed The American Chestnut Foundation and began a special breeding process, which in 2005 produced the first potentially blight-resistant trees called Restoration Chestnuts 1.0. Now assisted by nearly 6,000 members and volunteers in 18 state chapters, the organization is undertaking the planting of Restoration Chestnuts in select locations throughout the eastern US.

TACF is a 501 (c) 3 conservation organization headquartered in Asheville, NC. For more information on TACF and its national breeding program, visit www.acf.org. For more information on the restoration of the American chestnut, contact Paul Franklin, Director of Communications, The American Chestnut Foundation. T: (828) 281-0047 email: pfranklin@acf.org. Registration information for the event can be found at:  www.acf.org/summit/.