Skip to content
Mar 7 / BARD CEP

Land Reform Summer Research Internship- WV

Organization: Coal River Mountain Watch

Job Title: Land Reform Summer Research Internship

Location: Southern West Virginia

Hours and Compensation: Unpaid

Position Dates: Summer 2012

Application Deadline: There is some flexibility to tailor this research opportunity for your academic requirements. This position is unfunded but we can work with students to secure funding through their schools.

Posted on: February 27, 2012


Organization Overview

Coal River Mountain Watch is a community-based environmental justice organization that is dedicated to fighting mountaintop removal coal mining and the impacts of the coal industry on community health and safety. One of the major factors that both enables mountaintop removal mining in Appalachia and hinders the development of economic alternatives to coal is absentee land ownership. In the late 1800s and early 1900s outside corporations bought up vast tracts of surface and mineral rights from local mountaineers who were often illiterate and didn’t understand the value of the coal and mineral resources that their land held. According to the last comprehensive study of land ownership patterns in Appalachia, done in 1981, nearly 60% of West Virginia’s land is owned by landholding corporations; the percentage is even higher in coalfield counties. These landholding companies don’t pay their fair share of property tax, leading to lower tax revenues for the counties. The fact that West Virginians for the most part don’t own the vast wealth of their land is one reason why coal mining regions remain consistently poor. Leasing the land for coal development allows the vast mineral wealth of the region to flow to outside landholding corporations and coal corporations at the expense of community health and safety. Land ownership is also a serious barrier to economic diversification in central Appalachia; the ownership of natural resources by absentee corporations inhibits the development of local agriculture, community-owned renewable energy, and other sustainable alternatives.Description


Coal River Mountain Watch is working with a coalition of other West Virginia organizations to update and expand on the 1981 land ownership study, starting with a pilot study of one or two counties this summer. As part of this effort, we are looking for a summer student to do some background research on plausible strategies for land reform and property tax reform.


Coal River Mountain Watch is looking for a motivated, independent research student (graduate or upper-level undergraduate) with a background in geography, land use planning, law, or related fields to explore plausible strategies for land reform and property tax reform. This would involve understanding how property taxes and mineral taxes are currently structured in West Virginia and what would be required to change them; looking at models of successful land reform efforts in other areas; and understanding how land trusts and other legal structures could be used to purchase and protect land from certain extractive uses. By the end of the summer, the student should produce a briefing paper laying out plausible strategies for land reform in southern West Virginia and directions for future work


  • Background in geography, land use planning, law, policy or related fields
  • Graduate student or upper-level undergraduate with prior research experience
  • Ability to spend summer in southern West Virginia

How to Apply:

Contact Jen Osha at for application

Coal River Mountain Watch


Leave a comment