Tens of millions of American Chestnut trees were wiped out during the 20th Century. Some call it the “worst environmental disaster to strike the United States – ever.” How did that happen? An Asian Chestnut tree was imported to the US in the early 1900’s and with it carried a fungus that decimated the American version which had no tolerance. Nothing could save the American Chestnut tree.
In fact, the Chestnut Tree was a critical part of American life for the early settlers. Trade and commerce were an integral part of an ecosystem dependent on the American Chestnut Tree – from cradle to grave. As the tree died, so too, did a way of life that never recovered.

Scientists, funded by the Templeton World Charity Foundation, are  now working on a brand new solution — a genetically engineered blight resistant tree. If the science works (and researchers are very hopeful), and the US Government approves, the Chestnut Tree will be slowly re-introduced into forests along the Eastern seaboard — making it the first functionally extinct species — ever — to be resuscitated on planet Earth!

By Richard Sergay


  • Richard Sergay is an award-winning veteran network television journalist and senior media executive who spent much of his career at ABC News. He reported on major domestic and international stories for World News, Nightline and Good Morning America and ABC Radio. Richard completed a six-year assignment as Bureau Chief and Correspondent based in South Africa covering the end of White rule and Apartheid, as well as the release of Nelson Mandela from prison and the ensuing peace negotiations. After the South Africa assignment, Richard began a new beat for ABC News – the first for any major network --  focused on the digital revolution unfolding in the U.S.