Effects of the Survey

Map showing the 80 counties included in the 1982 report by the Appalachian Land Ownership Task Force<br />

Map of 80 counties surveyed

After the publication of the survey, legislators and concerned citizens across the country became aware of the plight of Appalachian residents. In the wake of the surveys, publication legal action was quickly taken in order to enact change to disproportionate land ownership policies.

The Southern Poverty Law Center filed a case against the state of Kentucky and sued the federal Department of Revenue claiming that all property in Kentucky should be taxed at the same rate. One of the litigators on the case was Joe Childers, a state coordinator on the land survey. This case won in the Franklin Circuit Court and the Court of Appeals, the Court of Appeals took it to the Supreme Court and it also won there.

The victory of the case and legislation meant that coal companies now had to pay the same property tax: one dollar per one hundred dollar value. This increased the tax base for many counties in Kentucky. 300-500 million dollars was collected in property taxes, a majority of which went to the schools, county, and state governments for the betterment of the regions. The portion of the money that went to the state went into the Land Heritage Conservation Fund.

While the survey enacted a change in tax rates, its greater impact relatively ceases there. Due to the highly political undertones of the survey and limited legislation, most of the land study policies began and ended within the confines of the survey. The Appalachian Regional Commission had some “blue ribbon” academics critique and try to discredit the study because it was done by people in the community, rather than academics. Throughout the duration of the project, the survey was under two separate presidencies, Reagan and Carter. With the change in president, came a change in the political climate which affected the land survey negatively. One of these effects was that the survey was not able to be published and broadcast in the way they originally thought possible.  “Any negative retrospective assessment of the political fruits of their efforts is a testament to the high expectations of those who undertook this effort, rather than a dismissal of the study itself.”

Effects of the Survey