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Vermont students join mission to save trees

Published: Sep. 15, 2020 at 6:49 PM EDT
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - Rutland City School students at the Allen Street Campus are planting American chestnut trees.

Tom Estill is a member of the American Chestnut Foundation. He’s been planting the trees around Rutland for years. When the American Chestnut Foundation caught on, they asked if he would like to start a germplasm conservation orchard.

“I said, ‘Oh, I’d love to do that!’ And basically, it’s an orchard that is preserving the DNA of the American chestnut because the American chestnut trees are dying,” Estill said.

Tuesday morning, students planted 15 trees. This makes the second germplasm conservation orchard in the state.

“Hard work. It’s hard work,” said Dominick Parker, a fifth-grader.

Parker likes trees and is happy to help save this species.

“They provide air, oxygen and homes for animals, and basically that they’re just part of wildlife. They just keep the world going around,” he said.

In the early 1900s, an Asian organism spread, killing most of the American chestnuts in the Eastern forests. By planting these true-bred American “champion trees,” the foundation can conserve DNA needed to help fight the blight.

Peter Laflamme is a sixth-grader excited to see the trees he helped plant be part of an orchard behind his school.

“To see American chestnut tree come back and rebuild their seed,” he said.

Eighth-grader Tjai Doane says planning for the project began this summer and it feels good to be part of something important.

“Pretty cool because not many people can say they saved a species of tree,” Doane said.

The work the students are doing helps provide data for the scientific experiment creating transgenic trees.

“We’re going to be pollinating these trees with pollen from trees that are blight resistant and hopefully the offspring will be blight resistant, true American trees,” Estill said.

If all goes well, the group may expand the orchard to hundreds. Planting trees and a future.

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