The Appalachian Land Study is a collaborative public research effort among diverse stakeholders in Central Appalachia that began to take shape in the fall of 2016. Inspired by the historic 1979 Appalachian Land Ownership Study [link to ALOS page under resources], we are documenting patterns of land and resource ownership and the revenues they generate, as well as studying our own relationships to the land. Together, we are working together to take stock of our shared land and natural resources, the wealth they generate, and our vision for the Appalachia we want.
The timing of this work is critical. Across our region people in government, academia, and grassroots organizations are advocating for a just and sustainable post-coal economic transition. These conversations have sparked a wave of creativity and innovation as well as new sources of funding to support transition projects. A key question in this process is how longstanding absentee land ownership and unfair taxation patterns will impact efforts to build a more just economy for all. While there is a long history of studies and campaigns on land issues in the region, there is now an even greater impetus for a comprehensive regional land study because “transition” requires an understanding of the existing patterns of land ownership and land use. At the same time, re-thinking our vision for the region also invites us to re-think how our property and tax systems can be reshaped to democratize land for the common good.