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An Evaluation of Postmining Land Use in Kentucky
Department of Landscape Architecture
Research on the extent and character of landscape and land use changes occurring due to surface coal mining will facilitate better public decision making and improved economic opportunities in Appalachian Kentucky. Surface coal mining has generated public concern over landslides, stream degradation, sediment pond failures, flooding and erosion. The scale of landscape change created by changing technologies in surface mining has caused apprehension in regard to the destruction of scenic qualities, the burial of stream headwater areas, and the loss of both vegetation and habitat. Data on surface coal mining in Kentucky exists in partial and disparate data bases, which makes it difficult to understand how mining has affected Appalachian land use over time.
This research will investigate uses put forth as "higher or better," using Geographic Information System (GIS) technology to integrate mining data with other data related to land use, to gain insight into patterns and extent of surface mining induced changes in land use and land capability in Appalachian Kentucky. Studies have shown that the procedures in surface mining regulations have not been consistently followed or enforced in regard to proper documentation for postmining land use exemptions from returning sites to their approximate original contour. Coal mining remains an important part of the local economy. However, its value to the region must be weighed against both the immediate and long-term impacts of surface coal mining. Though reclamation now takes place as part of the mining process, surface coal mining results in changes in landform, land cover, land capability and land use. Given the large extent of land affected by surface coal mining, negative impacts on future land use are a concern.
This research should help determine if postmining land uses have been implemented as proposed, and where the permitting process might be improved for better results. It will help regulatory personnel understand the long term impacts of land use designations and the likelihood of success of proposed land uses, thus improving permit review, and ultimately, leading to more productive postmined landscapes.