Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Who Owns Appalachia?

Who Owns Appalachia?: Landownership and Its Impact

With an Introduction by CHARLES C. GEISLER
Copyright Date: 1983
Pages: 272
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Who Owns Appalachia?
    Book Description:

    Long viewed as a problem in other countries, the ownership of land and resources is becoming an issue of mounting concern in the United States. Nowhere has it surfaced more dramatically than in the southern Appalachians where the exploitation of timber and mineral resources has been recently aggravated by the ravages of strip-mining and flash floods. This landmark study of the mountain region documents for the first time the full scale and extent of the ownership and control of the region's land and resources and shows in a compelling, yet non-polemical fashion the relationship between this control and conditions affecting the lives of the region's people.

    Begun in 1978 and extending through 1980, this survey of land ownership is notable for the magnitude of its coverage. It embraces six states of the southern Appalachian region -- Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Alabama. From these states the research team selected 80 counties, and within those counties field workers documented the ownership of over 55,000 parcels of property, totaling over 20 million acres of land and mineral rights.

    The survey is equally significant for its systematic investigation of the relations between ownership and conditions within Appalachian communities. Researchers compiled data on 100 socioeconomic indicators and correlated these with the ownership of land and mineral rights. The findings of the survey form a generally dark picture of the region -- local governments struggling to provide needed services on tax revenues that are at once inadequate and inequitable; economic development and diversification stifled; increasing loss of farmland, a traditional source of subsistence in the region. Most evident perhaps is the adverse effect upon housing resulting from corporate ownership and land speculation. Nor is the trend toward greater conglomerate ownership of energy resources, the expansion of absentee ownership into new areas, and the search for new mineral and energy sources encouraging.

    Who Owns Appalachia?will be an enduring resource for all those interested in this region and its problems. It is, moreover, both a model and a document for social and economic concerns likely to be of critical importance for the entire nation.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6193-8
    Subjects: Sociology, Population Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
    (pp. vi-viii)
  4. Introduction The New Lay of the Land
    (pp. ix-xxvi)

    The great majority of Americans would, if asked, be at a loss to answer the three following questions: Who is the largest private land owner in their state of residence? How does one discover elemental information on market value, property taxes paid for a given parcel of land and real owner identity? Finally, is it true or false that patterns of landownership pervasively influence the quality of life in the community in which they reside?¹ With each passing generation, Americans know less and less about the land, its ownership and control. Even less are we aware of how this yawning...

    (pp. xxvii-xxx)
    (pp. xxxi-xxxiv)
  7. ONE Landownership—A National Issue, An Appalachian Issue
    (pp. 1-13)

    In a rural area, land joins capital, labor, and technology as a crucial ingredient for economic growth. The land and its resources are the underpinning for development. The ownership and use of the land affect the options available for future developments. The relationship of rural people to the land takes on a special meaning in their work, culture, and community life. “Throughout history,” writes one land economist, “patterns of landownership have shaped patterns of human relations in nearly all societies.”¹

    In the United States in recent years, the question Who owns the land? has been raised from a number of...

  8. TWO Who Owns the Land and Minerals?
    (pp. 14-40)

    The image of Appalachia as the land of rugged individuals, owning and working relatively small family holdings, is strong in the literature about the region. But unlike the young couple in Ehle’s novel, today the image for so many remains a dream. The reality is a region where the ownership of land is concentrated in relatively few hands, dominated by absentee and corporate holders, with little available for local families to work, farm, or otherwise to enjoy.

    For this study, data was collected on the ownership of over 20 million acres—13 million acres of surface rights and 7 million...

  9. THREE Who Bears the Tax Burden?
    (pp. 41-63)

    One of the major policy areas related to the ownership and use of land is its taxation. Historically and today, the taxation of property is the primary source of locally generated revenues for county governments, providing funding for public services such as education, roads, welfare, health, sewage. In general across the country, the proportion of the tax which actually falls on the land is small, probably less than 20 percent according to some reports.¹ Buildings and other forms of real property provide the bulk of the tax base. However, in rural areas, where improvements have not been made upon the...

  10. FOUR Economic Development for Whom?
    (pp. 64-79)

    Appalachia has long been recognized as an area that is economically underdeveloped when compared to other regions of the country or to the nation as a whole. In spite of the development faith that was apparent throughout the region around the turn of the century, this century has not seen the development of a mature, stable economy within the region.¹ Even as it moves into the last two decades of the Twentieth century, the region still finds itself overly susceptible to the fluctuations of the national and global economy. The boom and bust cycles of the coal industry and their...

  11. FIVE Appalachia’s Disappearing Farmland
    (pp. 80-94)

    Appalachia historically has been thought of as the land of the small farmer. Studies by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 1930 concluded that the southern regions of Appalachia had the heaviest concentration of self-sufficient farms in the country.¹ Even today, many Appalachians share a closeness to the land, a familiarity with and attachment to it. Yet throughout this century, Appalachians have witnessed a constant assault on their land, resulting in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of small farmers and the disintegration of the culture and communities of farming.

    Well over a million acres of farmland went...

  12. SIX Homeless in the Mountains
    (pp. 95-112)

    Housing in Appalachia has long been recognized as a national disgrace. In 1970, in the region as a whole, one out of every five homes was considered substandard. In Central Appalachia, the figure rose to one in every three homes. Of the seventy-two rural counties in this study, the average county had 30 percent of all homes lacking some plumbing, 13 percent considered overcrowded, and almost 60 percent built before 1950. For people living in the region, these statistics are made worse by the paradox that some of the worst housing conditions lie amid the greatest wealth. In the heart...

  13. SEVEN Ownership, Energy and the Land
    (pp. 113-135)

    Clearly, almost any use of the land will affect it. But, in Appalachia, no other use brings effects so pervasive and so permanent as those of energy development. The legacies of mining, especially strip mining, are well known. Other new developments in energy extraction—synthetic-fuel development, oil and gas, shale oil, pumped storage schemes—also will have impacts on the land itself. Now, more than ever, the costs the region is being asked to bear in order to meet national energy demands will be very longterm indeed. The short-term gains of strip mining for coal may preclude future extraction of...

  14. EIGHT A Call to Action
    (pp. 136-148)

    For decades people in communities throughout the Appalachian region have been struggling against the concentrated, usually absentee control of the region’s land and mineral resources. The Appalachian Landownership Study must be seen as part of that decades old struggle. Many of the citizens and scholars who became members of the Task Force or otherwise participated in the study were veterans of those battles. Too often, they had been hampered in their efforts by insufficient information about the control of land and minerals in the region. For them, this study was the chance to document in a comprehensive way landownership patterns...

  15. APPENDIX ONE. Fifty Top Owners and Other Data
    (pp. 149-156)
  16. APPENDIX TWO. Methodology of the Land Study
    (pp. 157-177)
  17. APPENDIX THREE. Annotated Bibliography
    (pp. 178-217)
  18. NOTES
    (pp. 218-230)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 231-235)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 236-240)