Land Study Peer Exchange Held in Harlan County

Roy Silver of Southeast Kentucky Community College addresses the group about the history of land use, hope and resilience in Harlan County. Photo by Betsy Taylor, Executive Director of Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network

Members of the Appalachian Land Study collective met at Benham Schoolhouse Inn in Harlan County, KY the weekend of October 25th-27th, 2019. The peer exchange meeting consisted of community members from eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, and Tennessee who are all working locally to research public records, map land ownership, and connect with local people about their stories and connections to the land. The group participated in technology and methods training, discussed the mission and challenges of the work, and formed a formal coordinating committee to guide the study. The event was co-sponsored by the UK Appalachian Center, UK Department of Community and Leadership Development, Alliance for Appalachia, Highlander Research and Education Center, and Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network.

The Appalachian Land Study is a community-scholarly collaboration in Central Appalachia with the mission of providing accurate data about land and mineral ownership and public revenues to communities, scholars, local governments, and other stakeholders. The study follows up on a groundbreaking participatory action research study, Who Owns Appalachia?, that was completed in 1979. The earlier study found that throughout much of the region, land and minerals are predominantly owned by absentee corporations who contribute only a small percentage of total property taxes. The current study emerged out of a desire to revisit land ownership as Appalachia’s economy changes in the context of global economic and energy shifts.