Coming Earth Day 2023
At the turn of the 20th century, a deadly blight that was accidentally imported into the U.S. from Asia devastated the American chestnut, killing billions throughout its native range, from Maine to Alabama. Within a span of only 50 years the American chestnut was eliminated as a mature forest tree. Since then, citizen scientists and researchers have worked tirelessly to restore this economically and ecologically important tree species. The new documentary film, Clear Day Thunder: Rescuing the American Chestnut, tells the story of these passionate people during a pivotal moment in this effort to bring the tree back from near extinction.
Known as the “cradle to grave” tree, it has a remarkable place in American history and holds tremendous promise for the future. The American chestnut was a vital component of the Appalachian mountains’ ecosystems, economy, and landscape, benefiting an array of communities and cultures. Because of its size, rapid growth, long life, and decay resistance, forests of healthy American chestnuts have the ability to contribute substantially to carbon sequestration and play a significant role in combating the threat of global climate change. Looking ahead, the methodologies employed for this tree’s restoration could provide a template for the rescue of other declining tree species under threat worldwide.
The unwavering efforts of countless individuals to save the tree are a testament to the durability and attraction of this decades-long mission. Volunteers throughout the eastern U.S. plant and maintain research orchards and search for surviving wild American chestnut trees to collect dwindling specimens for germplasm conservation. Hundreds of research scientists are collaborating in multiple strategies to develop a disease-tolerant and genetically diverse population of American chestnuts that will be adaptable in a broad and changing climate.
Sponsored by The American Chestnut Foundation, Clear Day Thunder: Rescuing the American Chestnut, features the advocacy of luminaries such as the Dr. E.O. Wilson, Barbara Kingsolver, President Jimmy Carter and Dolly Parton. It also highlights the scientists, volunteers, and dedicated landowners who have been working relentlessly for decades to achieve mission success – to return the iconic American chestnut to its native range – and maintain the hope for future generations.