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UK Will Not Mine Robinson Forest

Contact: Ralph Derickson

 

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After hearing a detailed report on the value of both the forest land and the coal reserves in the forest, which is located in Breathitt, Knott and Perry counties, UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. told board members he has “no interest in pursuing mining of coal reserves in the main block of Robinson Forest, but I am strongly committed to preserving the Robinson Scholars program.”

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 16, 2003) -- The University of Kentucky will not allow coal mining in the nearly 10,000 contiguous acres of the E.O. Robinson Forest in Eastern Kentucky, it was reported at today’s Board of Trustees meeting.

After hearing a detailed report on the value of both the forest land and the coal reserves in the forest, which is located in Breathitt, Knott and Perry counties, UK President Lee T. Todd Jr. told board members he has “no interest in pursuing mining of coal reserves in the main block of Robinson Forest, but I am strongly committed to preserving the Robinson Scholars program.”

“I do believe,” the president continued, “our focus should be on the environmental, watershed and forestry research within the forest.” Todd said he also believes timber harvesting should be continued as part of the research of renewable resources being conducted in Robinson Forest, “especially since that relates directly to the language of the Robinson Trust.”

E.O. Robinson of Newport, Ky., an entrepreneur at the turn of the 20th century, extensively harvested hardwood timbers in the forest and in 1922 conveyed the forest land to an E.O. Robinson Mountain Fund. In 1923, the Mountain Fund conveyed 14,000 acres of the forest to the University of Kentucky to be held in trust.

In 1991, UK permitted mining in outlying areas of the main block of the forest and used the proceeds of the mining to initiate an E.O. Robinson Scholarship program in 2001 that gives students in 29 Eastern Kentucky counties full scholarships to attend UK or any other state-supported institution of higher education, including the community colleges. However, in recent years the Robinson Scholarship fund has been depleted.

A report on the forest was requested by former UK Board of Trustees member Dr. Grady Stumbo to consider whether the Robinson Scholars fund could be augmented by coal mining and timbering in the main block of the forest.

Instead of using the reserves in the forest to raise more funds for the scholarships, President Todd said the university is embarking on a special fund-raising effort, especially focusing on potential donors in the 29 Eastern Kentucky counties.

Terry Mobley, UK vice president for development, reported UK has hired former baseball coach Keith Madison to head up the special Robinson Scholars fund-raising drive. He said the development office “has already detected a lot of interest in the local communities.”

President Todd made his remarks after the board received a report on the forest, delivered by Jack Blanton, retired UK senior vice president for administration, and Scott Smith, dean of the College of Agriculture. Their report, which stressed the difficulties of estimating the amount and price of the coal in the forest, indicated it could be worth as much as $2.7 billion. The timber could be worth an additional $11 million, they said.

Several UK board members commented favorably about preserving Robinson Forest.

“I have seen so much of Eastern Kentucky polluted and washed over the hillsides,” Board of Trustees member Frank Shoop commented. “As long as I'm on the board, I will never vote to mine in the forest.”

The board also re-elected its current officers at yesterday’s meeting. Steven S. Reed of Louisville was elected to another term as chairman of the UK Board of Trustees. Other officers are JoEtta Y. Wickliffe of Harrodsburg, vice chair; Russ Williams, Lexington, secretary; and Paul C. Van Booven, UK general counsel, assistant secretary.

In other action, the board:

  • Renamed the Office of Minority Affairs as the Office for Multicultural and Academic Affairs, retroactive to July 1, and,
  • Accepted $381,292.53 in gifts from 28 donors to create and endow the UK Center for Research on Violence Against Women Endowment Fund.

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