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Mtn. Talk: Who Owns Appalachia – Then & Now

Mtn. Talk: Who Owns Appalachia – Then & Now


Appalshop’s copies of the original 1981 Appalachian Land Ownership Study state reports for Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia, left to right.


In February 1981 the Appalachian Land Ownership Study was published.  The Study was produced from a two year community research project covering 80 counties across six states: Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Alabama. The 1981  study, which received funding from the Appalachian Regional Commission,  aimed to understand not just who owned the land on the surface, but also who owned the minerals rights underneath.

The findings showed that in many Central Appalachian counties absentee mining corporations owned more than half of the land, and up to 70% of the mineral rights The study also found that major mining corporations owned 50-70% of the land but paid only 4% of county property taxes.

It’s been over 25 years since the report was published, and there’s now a growing effort to conduct another study to explore current land ownership realities in Central Appalachia.  In September 2016 over 60 participants gathered in Lexington, KY to launch the new effort, and since then cross-region work continues to launch a new land ownership study.

This episode of Mountain Talk includes audio from the September 2016 meeting, at which Shauna Scott, Joe Childers, and Susan Williams shared memories of their involvement in the original study.  And, it includes interviews with three people involved in the modern day study:  Jacob Meadows a graduate student at Appalachian State University, Lindsey Shade a lecturer in the Department of community and leadership development  at the University of Kentucky, and Terran Young former Appalachian Transition Fellow with the Land Ownership Study.





appalachian history,
coal industry,
Land Ownership Study,