Scientists are working to restore the American chestnut trees that once filled North American forests but say it will take 150 to 200 years for their work to make an impact. Of three and five billion American chestnut trees, only about 435 million are still alive, and they are considered functionally extinct. When the trees were abundant, their nuts fed pigs or turkeys, the wood was used for shingles, beams and flooring, railroad ties and telephone poles, and American streets were once lined with carts serving the holiday treat. Once it becomes possible to plant the improved trees in forests, volunteers will be needed. “It’s going to take lots of people, lots of money, lots of energy, lots of time. You know, with trees, nature does it a lot better. But nature can’t do this on her own, and we’re going to have to give her a lot of help,” says Sara Fitzsimmons, director of restoration for the American Chestnut Foundation.

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