Skip to main content

National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis

Project Description

The Appalachian coalfields of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia currently support millions of acres of intact forest lands that are resilient to climate change and contribute significantly to the connectedness of habitats across the eastern United States. In addition, approximately 2.4 million acres of former forest lands that have been or are being surface mined offer significant opportunities for carbon sequestration. At the same time, the coalfields are among the most impoverished areas in the US, and much of the region relies on coal mining activity as its sole economic driver. The decline of the coal industry has long been forecast, and is now widely acknowledged. Efforts are now underway to diversify the economies of the coalfields region to include renewable energy development, tourism, and a revived forest products industry. We propose to develop a multi-objective landscape analysis that will help regional decision makers balance economic growth, provisioning of ecological services, climate adaptation, and human well-being. We are assembling a working group that includes not only experts in economic modeling, rural sociology, ecology, forestry, tourism, and policy, but also local practioners of community economic development that understand the unique culture, opportunities, and constraints of the Appalachian coalfields. This group will collaborate to develop a spatially explicit model of economic and ecological values that can predict the benefits to people from multiple land use scenarios. The model will incorporate numerous ecological, economic and social datasets including the Conservancy’s Connected and Resilient Landscapes, topographic, geologic and soil data from USGS, NLCD landcover data, Surface meteorology and Solar Energy datasets from NASA, the American Community Survey and SAIPE (Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates) and the Census of Governments from the U.S. Census Bureau, REIS (Regional Economic Information System) from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and county level economic data from IMPLAN. The final product with be a set of scenarios for the region that indicate where conflicts exists among potential uses and suggested strategies to optimize among the three key elements of human well-being: economic, environmental, and social value. Results will be presented to regional stakeholders in a culturally appropriate format to be determined collaboratively by the working group. In addition, one or more peer reviewed publications will be prepared and web tools will be created and hosted on the TNC Conservation Gateway website to permit widespread access to data and results.

Principal Investigator(s)

Judy Dunscomb, Mark G. Anderson, Rob Baldwin, Randall Jackson

Project Dates

Start: January 1, 2018

End: December 31, 2020



Mark G. Anderson
The Nature Conservancy
Danna Baxley
The Nature Conservancy
Joshua Bills
The Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED)
Cara Byington
The Nature Conservancy
Barry L. Cook
West Virginia Divsion of Forestry
Brandon Dennison
Coalfield Development Corporation
Cliff Drouet
Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement
Judy Dunscomb
The Nature Conservancy
Elizabeth Engel
The Nature Conservancy
Leslie Ferguson-Oles
The Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED)
Emily Fleming
West Virginia Division of Natural Resources
Kelley Galownia
The Nature Conservancy
Randall Jackson
West Virginia University
Joey James
Downstream Strategies
Brad J. Kreps
The Nature Conservancy
Linda Lobao
Ohio State University
Jean Lorber
David W. McGill
West Virginia University
Jensen Montambault
The Nature Conservancy
Campbell Moore
The Nature Conservancy
William Norman
Clemson University
Alex Novak
The Nature Conservancy
Thomas Ochuodho
University of Kentucky
Sally Palmer
The Nature Conservancy
Herb Petitjean
Kentucky Energy and Evironment Cabinet
Terry Polen
West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection
Matthew Wender
The West Virginia Community Development Hub
Elizabeth Wheatley
The Nature Conservancy
Marilyn Wrenn
Coalfield Development Corporation

Are you part of a working group or visiting NCEAS for another opportunity? Check out our page of resources for you.

Learn More