Open Collective
Open Collective
What we've been up to in 2021
Published on December 3, 2021 by Lindsay Shade


Views from land owners' property in Mingo County and Nicholas County, WV.
The West Virginia Land Study team held two in-person workshops over the summer. Participants explored property, practiced interviewing skills, connected narratives about land, reviewed maps and data sheets, toured New Roots Farm in Fayetteville, WV, and learned about West Virginia Agrarian Commons.

Kentucky State University (KSU) College of Agriculture, Community, and the Sciences is conducting a research survey with local landowners and residents to understand their experience in two main areas: 1) surface mining, surface mining reclamation, and land use opportunities and 2) barriers in utilizing reclaimed properties.

Do you or does someone you know live on a former surface mine site, have a farm or agriculture production on reclaimed surface mine land, use an alternative land management practice, or just have familiarity with reclaimed surface mine lands?

Take their survey here!

The survey is for Eastern Kentucky residents and contiguous county residents with significant surface mining in their region. The survey responses will help KSU and other stakeholders in designing new Extension and outreach activities to improve reclaimed farm and forestlands and socioeconomic conditions in the region.
Martin County, KY, Land Study participant, Karen Rignall, is working with residents from the county and advocates across the region to learn about and share info on a utility-scale solar project that is in the works.

The group recently surveyed Martin County residents on what needs there are in the county and what questions they have for the solar developer. The goal of the survey is to advocate for more consistent and coherent planning for direct community benefits.

Check out the recording of the community report back through a Facebook Live event that was held in September!

Other work going on in Martin County includes a regional research study on water quality in public water systems and involving young people in collecting oral histories that will become part of a “Stories of Place” digital public archive to go live sometime later this year.

Levi Van Sant has been working with undergraduate research assistants at George Mason University to map landownership patterns in the Shenandoah Valley (eight counties in VA and two in WV). Thus far, they have a map of absentee ownership across the entire region and they have completed mapping the parcels owned by the ten largest landowners in seven of the ten counties.

With the help of Case Watkins at James Madison University they are building regional research relationships, and welcome inquiries and feedback from any interested parties. Please see Levi's website for more information.

EKY Community Remembrance Project meetings are the 3rd Tuesday of the month at 7pm and are open to all people committed to honesty, learning, healing, and racial justice. Through community events, mapping, grave-tending, gathering of oral histories, art, and dialogue, the group has begun to come together to reckon with our local history of racial lynchings, violence, and erasure.

Join the conversation or find out more:
Mingo County, WV Land Study participant, Grace Williams, is taking a class on community resource mapping and participatory research at Future Generations University. Interested in collaborating? Get in touch here to share ideas!

JASMER, a 400 acre ecological reserve in Mingo County,WV hosted their annual members meeting in August.
Heirs Property Project | With the support of Alcorn State University's Socially Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers Policy Research Center, LiKEN  just finished the final report on their heirs property project. The report compares Eastern KY counties with  Black Belt agricultural communities in AL and GA. The Heirs Property Retention Coalition is also beginning another project looking at credit and federal agencies and comparative work in Appalachian counties.

According to LiKen, “Heirs’ Property” (legally known as “tenancy in common”) refers to a significant and largely unknown issue affecting landownership and community livelihoods in a variety of regions within the United States. Heirs’ property is created when land passes to two or more descendants who become “tenants in common” of the property.

Such arrangements can result from either a lack of a formal will from the deceased  (also known as passing away “intestate”), or when a will does not specify the particular divisions of the property being handed down to heirs. Heirs own undivided interest fractional shares in the entire property, but because of various reasons (e.g., number of tenants in common, conflicts between tenants, unclear or clouded title concerns, etc.)  they are largely prohibited from exercising the rights and privileges of outright property owners.

This kind of “tangled title” acts as a barrier to building intergenerational wealth, and can make families vulnerable.

 Check out how folks in Southwest Virginia are fighting for equitable land access.

Coordinating meetings of the Land Study Collective are held bi-weekly on Mondays at 3:30 pm. If you are interested in getting more involved, please contact us at [email protected]