Monday, May 26, 2003

UK to look at Robinson Forest

The Associated Press

LEXINGTON - A solution to dwindling revenues for a program that sends eastern Kentucky's brightest students to college could lead to mining that would destroy timberland.

University of Kentucky President Lee Todd has suggested the school could generate $50 million or $60 million by allowing mining in the Robinson Forest. UK's trustees will hear a report, due this summer, that most likely will focus on 250 acres in the forest's northeast corner, where an estimated 13.3 million tons of high-quality coal lies.

The Robinson Scholar program was established in 1997 from a trust set up by timber magnate E.O. Robinson. He deeded the 15,000-acre forest to UK in the 1930s and specified that income from coal and timber in the forest be spent on reforestation, agriculture and education in the region.

The real money appeared when parts of the forest were mined. A committee in the early 1990s came up with the idea of giving full tuition to Eastern Kentucky students, and UK now uses most of the forest for scientific research.

People opposed to more mining say that kind of research is key to a better future for an impoverished region. But others say the best use of the land is letting the coal under it pay for educating mountain children.

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