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About Appeal tribune. (Silverton, Or.) 1999-current | View Entire Issue (Aug. 11, 2021)
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 11, 2021
Brian Martin, left, of G&C Farm shows U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Gov. Kate Brown berry crops damaged by drought and high
temperatures. PHOTOS BY BRIAN HAYES/STATESMAN JOURNAL
‘A model for the future’
Connor Radnovich Salem Statesman Journal
USA TODAY NETWORK
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vil-
sack called Oregon’s diverse agricultural
landscape “a model for the future of agri-
culture” during a visit to the mid-Wil-
lamette Valley on Tuesday, which includ-
ed a tour of a local family farm and meet-
ings with Gov. Kate Brown.
“It’s such a more resilient system, and
we obviously want to continue to see
farmers be able to prosper here in Oregon
and across the country,” Vilsack told re-
porters while at G&C Farm outside Sa-
Despite that diversity-grounded resil-
iency – boasting specialty growers and
more than 220 commodities – Oregon
farmers face signiﬁcant challenges
stemming from climate change. This
year alone, the Willamette Valley saw
historic weather events in the Valen-
tine’s Day ice storm and the two-day
“heat dome” in June.
Taylor Martin of G&C Farms said they
lost 65-70% of their cane berry crop this
year in just those two days. He and his
father Brian Martin took Brown and Vil-
sack on their tour, including showing
them blackberry leaves crisped from the
“We’ve never had an event like this.
The heat dome ... basically baked them
on the cane,” Taylor Martin said.
93% of the state is currently in severe
or extreme drought conditions, Brown
“We are obviously seeing the com-
pounding impacts of climate change on
the ground here in Oregon,” Brown said.
Vilsack said farmers who were im-
pacted by the weather this year might be
able to apply for some ﬁnancial assis-
tance in the fall. A payment framework is
Vilsack says ﬁnancial assistance to farmers whose crops were impacted by weather is currently under debate.
currently under debate and could be an-
nounced publicly in late August or Sep-
He added that existing assistance
programs intended to provide support to
farmers during disasters needed to be
looked at for potential improvements.
The pair also had a meeting at the
Oregon Oﬃce of Emergency Manage-
ment building to discuss wildﬁre risks
and coordination between the state and
federal government on wildﬁre resilien-
cy and suppression eﬀorts.
Vilsak also touted President Joe Bi-
den’s Build Back Better plan and the $1
trillion bipartisan infrastructure pack-
age currently in the Senate as containing
critical investments to support agricul-
ture and wildﬁre resiliency.
“We need to do a better job of manag-
ing our forests, and that requires re-
sources,” he said. “We’ve been attempt-
ing to do forest management on the
Reporter Connor Radnovich covers
the Oregon Legislature and state govern-
ment. Contact him at cradnov-
email@example.com or 503-399-
6864, or follow him on Twitter at
Penn State team ﬁghts to bring back ‘survivor’ tree
York Daily Record
USA TODAY NETWORK
YORK, Pa. – The colossal tree in York
County, Pennsylvania, is one of the nation’s
Its seven trunks erupt in all directions
from a well-worn base in an open ﬁeld. Its
limbs are gnarled and its height stunted
from disease. Its outer leaves and stems are
browned and cracked from cicadas.
It is no longer smooth, straight or majes-
tic. Its power comes from within: How it has
produced what amounts to a protective ar-
mor of furrowed bark to ward oﬀ what has
killed most of its kind.
It is a living marvel, as far as trees go.
One of the nation’s largest disease-resis-
tant American chestnuts continues to grow
and even thrive for reasons unknown next
to a church parking lot, not far from Inter-
Researchers at Penn State and across
the East Coast continue to study it and the
few others like it – taking pollen and gene
samples to aid their long-standing ﬁght to
return one of America’s most-prized hard-
woods to the landscape in all its glory.
The York County tree is probably around
100 years old. It deﬁes gravity by unduly
stretching and twisting its weighty
branches, some reaching down to try and
touch the earth.
It is one of just a few known old-growth
American chestnuts in Pennsylvania that
have developed a means to fully repel the
blight that brought this species to the brink
of extinction. While countless chestnuts are
still sprouting on forest ﬂoors, the disease
kills nearly every one before it grows above
10 feet, and begins to reap its true value.
These “survivor” trees continue to help
restore what some call the most valuable
tree in our nation’s history.
One of the most useful trees in the world.
And though arduous, the chestnut’s re-
covery appears to be gaining steam.
Foresters, environmentalists and re-
searchers such as Sara Fern Fitzsimmons,
director of restoration with the American
Chestnut Foundation in State College,
Pennsylvania, talk about why the cause is
The tree’s nuts once were so plentiful
they’d pile into a forest carpet six inches
thick in the fall. They were integral to feed-
ing people, livestock and wildlife such as
deer and turkey.
Chestnut wood also was prized for its
rot-resistance and strength, and was used
to make everything from cradles to coﬃns.
Its tannins were vital in the leather-making
And the fast grower quickly re-sprouted
after cutting and was ready for another har-
vest in only 20 years.
Chestnuts were the most versatile of the
primary hardwoods in the Eastern forest,
including oak, cherry and walnut.
“Everything revolved around the Amer-
ican chestnut,” said Renae Weidner with
Pennsylvania’s Department of Conserva-
tion and Natural Resources.
“And then they were gone.”
There once were nearly 4 billion Amer-
ican chestnuts growing east of the Missis-
That began to change dramatically after
a fungal blight arrived more than a century
ago, accidentally transported along with
imported Chinese chestnut trees. The fun-
gus took hold swiftly and killed uncondi-
tionally, leading to what has been called
“the greatest ecological disaster” in our
By the time it was fully identiﬁed in 1904,
the blight was beyond control. Spread by
the wind, it was moving an estimated 50
miles per year, tree by tree.
After surviving every possible ecological
challenge for 40 million years, the Ameri-
can chestnut was nearly wiped away in just
It is still described as “functionally ex-
tinct,” which means that though its root
system continues to thrive and it can repro-
duce, it rarely lives long enough to grow into
a formidable tree. They often resemble
shrubs before succumbing to the blight.
The eﬀort to create a sustainable, dis-
ease-resistant variety of chestnut is just
one mission in the ramped-up ﬁght to save
American native forests. Other famed
growers such elm, ash and more recently
hemlock and beech trees have all been deci-
mated, in some form or fashion, by foreign
pests and disease.
The American chestnut recovery has
stretched the longest. Its ultimate success
could add much-needed diversity to our
forests and provide keys to help those other
struggling trees recover, Fitzsimmons said.
One part of the restoration includes the
estimated 500 chestnut research orchards
stretching from Maine into the Midwest
and along the Appalachian Mountain
range. In places such as Codorus State Park
in York County, four orchards feature tradi-
tional breeding methods of crossing strains
of American and Chinese chestnuts in
hopes of developing blight resistance.
Another restoration tactic involves cre-
ating a genetically modiﬁed chestnut. Re-
searchers have added a wheat gene to the
American chestnut to potentially increase
The long-term results of these eﬀorts,
though, are still unknown. While mass
plantings of these newly created trees are
underway, “restoration is a decades- to cen-
tury-long process,” Fitzsimmons said.