Accessing the Land: A Community Forum for Southwest Virginia Land Ownership Equity

Appalachian Voices and the Southwest Virginia New Economy Network are working together to increase our understanding of absentee land ownership and to make land ownership and property taxation more equitable in far Southwest Virginia.

The community forums will be taking place virtually for each county in far Southwest Virginia. Through these group discussions, we hope to build power as a community to address land ownership issues in the region. We want to hear what equitable land ownership means to you and what it would look like in your community.


  • Presentation: Land Ownership in Southwest Virginia
  • Examples of Land Access Issues
  • Community discussion
    • What examples exist in your community?
    • What does fair land access look like?
    • How can we make that happen?

Register below to join us!

Date and time


Registration Link

August 19th, 6 PM

Session 1: Wise County & Norton

Register for Session 1

September 2nd, 6 PM

Session 2: Dickenson County

Register for Session 2

September 9th, 6 PM

Session 3: Lee County 

Register for Session 3

September 23rd, 6 PM

Session 4: Scott County

Register for Session 4

October 7th, 6 PM

Session 5: Russell County

Register for Session 5

October 14th, 6 PM

Session 6: Tazewell County

Register for Session 6

October 28th, 6 PM

Session 7: Buchanan County

Register for Session 7

Can’t make a call, but still interested in providing input on land ownership in your county? Contact Austin Counts at or call 276-219-2751 to see what we can do to make sure your voice is heard.

Land and resource ownership is a concern for many Appalachian communities as they try to transition their economies away from unsustainable extraction industries. In 1978, a landmark land study of the Appalachian region demonstrated that 81% of surveyed landowners were nonlocal despite controlling 72% of the sampled acreage. In Virginia’s coalfields, the study found that absentee land ownership reached as high as 60% of all surface land in some counties.

Today, little has changed with ownership patterns in Virginia’s coalfields. According to Virginia’s Commission on Local Government’s fiscal stress index, all seven coalfield counties’ fiscal stress scores are either high or above average. Out of 90 counties, Buchanan County is ranked the most stressed county in Virginia, followed by Dickenson as 2nd, Lee as 8th, Scott as 12th, Tazewell as 13th, Russell as 14th, and Wise as 21st.

We seek to establish a more equitable system of land ownership in Southwest Virginia by

  • Increasing local revenues from property taxes from corporate land-holding companies
  • Ensuring equitable access to land for local people
  • Ensuring environmentally responsible and sustainable land use in Southwest Virginia
  • Ensuring that coal-mined land can be reclaimed and reused

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