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Londonderry library to host program on chestnut conservation

LONDONDERRY - The plight of the American chestnut tree will be the focus of a free program at the Londonderry Leach Library this week.

Presented by wildlife biologist Curtis Laffin, the program will detail the history and demise of the tree and efforts by the American Chestnut Foundation to restore it locally and throughout its historic range.

Laffin, a resident of Hudson, is a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife ranger who has been an active volunteer with the American Chestnut Foundation for the past four years. The majority of his 23 years with U.S. Fish and Wildlife was spent in long-range planning for National Wildlife Refuges. Since his retirement in 1994, Laffin has volunteered with N.H. Fish and Game and has also worked with the Merrimack River Watershed Council.

This program will explore the history of the American chestnut tree, which less than 100 years ago dominated eastern U.S. forests with a range of over 200 million acres until succumbing to chestnut blight, a lethal fungal disease. The blight, which stemmed from imported Asian chestnut trees, is easily dispersed via air, raindrops or animals.

The American Chestnut Foundation is currently focusing its efforts on developing a blight-resistant chestnut that can also withstand New Hampshire's winters.

Sponsored by the Londonderry Conservation Commission, the 7 p.m. program is free and open to the public.