Across Appalachia, scientists and foresters are trying to reintroduce a hybrid version, helping to revive damaged land while also bringing back a beloved tree.
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ohio — Michael French trudged through a thicket of prickly bramble, unfazed by the branches he had to swat away on occasion in order to arrive at a quiet spot of hilly land that was once mined for coal. Now, however, it is patched with flowering goldenrods and long yellow-green grasses and dotted with tree saplings.
The sight, he acknowledged, would seem unimpressive to most. Yet it might be Mr. French’s most prized accomplishment. To him, the young trees symbolize what could be a critical comeback for some of the country’s vanishing forests, and for one tree in particular, the American chestnut.
“I don’t see it how most people see it,” he said. “I look at this and I see how it’s going to be in 80