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Butternut Archive Orchard planted

Corey Gent, of Forest Gene Conservation Association, and Ian Jean, of Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority at Butternut Archive Orchard site.


Forest Gene Conservation Association enters partnership with Ausable Bayfield Conservation to establish, maintain, monitor five-acre Butternut Archive Orchard at Triebner Tract northwest of Exeter

The Forest Gene Conservation Association (FGCA) and Ausable Bayfield Conservation Authority (ABCA) are creating a five-acre Butternut Archive Orchard at ABCA’s Triebner Tract northwest of Exeter. The FGCA and ABCA have entered a 15-year agreement for the establishment, ongoing maintenance and monitoring of the orchard, to help to protect the endangered Butternut tree species. FGCA is funding the orchard with help from species at risk funding from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks (MECP). 

“Butternut has historically been an important part of our local forests but it has been almost decimated by Butternut canker,” said Ian Jean, ABCA Forestry and Land Stewardship Specialist. “Thanks to the work and funding from the Forest Gene Conservation Association we are taking an important step towards Butternut recovery.” 

Butternut is a species at risk throughout its natural range in Canada and the United States. Butternut is impacted by Butternut Canker (Ophiognomonia clavigignenti-juglandacearum) which is a fungus that affects the cambial layer of Butternut usually causing tree mortality. Once a common tree throughout eastern North America, Butternut is now uncommon and is listed as endangered under the Ontario’s provincial Endangered Species Act (ESA). Healthy Butternut are very rare and now considered too few and too far apart for natural recovery.

Heather Zurbrigg is Manager of Species Conservation with the Forest Gene Conservation Association. She thanked Ausable Bayfield Conservation for being a partner on the Butternut Archive Orchard project. “Ausable Bayfield Conservation is an important partner of ours and we are very excited to be embarking on the creation of this orchard with them,” she said. “This is the sixth and, most likely, final orchard in our butternut archiving program.  We are lucky to be partnering on this project with such enthusiastic and capable people who understand the importance of the recovery of this endangered species.”

FGCA has established five Butternut Archive Orchards across Ontario to facilitate Butternut Recovery. Upper Thames River Conservation Authority also has had an existing partnership agreement and Butternut archive orchard at Pittock Conservation Area since 2016.

Butternut trees on the landscape throughout the natural range of Butternut that are showing tolerance to the Butternut Canker are the foundation of the FGCA archiving recovery efforts. Archive orchards are planted with grafted trees grown from scions (twigs) collected from these healthy Butternut. Establishing archive orchards will enable cross-pollination and future seed production between tolerant trees to aid in the re-introduction of healthy Butternut on the landscape and recovery of Butternut in Ontario.

The partners in the Butternut Archive Orchard project at Triebner Tract are planning a ground-breaking ceremony for later this summer for the Triebner Tract site.

The 100-acre Triebner Tract property was purchased by ABCA from the Triebner family in 2009. The property protects 60 acres of mature swamp forest within the Hay Swamp Provincially Significant Wetland Complex.  The conservation authority has restored a mix of wetlands and forests on about 40 acres of the property to enhance the existing natural habitat.

ABCA completed initial planting and wetland restoration work on 10 acres in 2011 and has been restoring the remaining 30 acres in 2022 and 2023. The Butternut Archive Orchard will complement the naturalization efforts on the property.

Benefits of ABCA’s partnership with FGCA include:

  • Opportunity for ABCA to contribute to Butternut Recovery in Ontario. Butternut was an important tree for wildlife. Historically, the nuts were a food source for First Nations peoples and settlers.
  • Future partnership and promotional opportunities associated with Butternut recovery efforts.

The Forest Gene Conservation Association is a not-for-profit organization in Ontario. FGCA’s goal is to assist forest practitioners to conserve and augment the genetic diversity of forests through Species Conservation, Seed Management Expertise, Climate Change Adaptation, and Education and Advocacy. FGCA partners with the government, forestry sector, not-for-profit organizations, landowners, conservation authorities and other groups on projects across southern Ontario.

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