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Ranching in Coal Country

Feb. 7, 2013 | KUOW
CONTRIBUTED BY:
Katie Campbell,
Ashley Ahearn

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  • L.J. Turner's family has been ranching in northeast Wyoming for generations. That way of life is changing now that Turner's neighbors include the world's largest open surface coal mines. credit: Katie Campbell
  • L.J. Turner's family has been ranching in northeast Wyoming for generations. That way of life is changing now that Turner's neighbors include the world's largest open surface coal mines. credit: Katie Campbell
  • One of the open surface coal mines near L.J. Turner's ranch. Mines like this operate on public land where Turner once grazed his cattle. credit: Katie Campbell
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L.J. Turner's family has been ranching in northeast Wyoming for generations. That way of life is changing now that Turner's neighbors include the world's largest open surface coal mines. | credit: Katie Campbell | rollover image for more
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Editor’s Note: Should coal from Wyoming and Montana be transported through the Pacific Northwest and shipped to Asia? In our multimedia project, “Voices of Coal,” we bring you nine diverse perspectives from people across the region with a stake in that debate. Today’s installment: The Coal Country rancher.

L.J. Turner’s family started ranching more than a century ago in northeastern Wyoming. He remembers as a boy cutting ice from the creek outside the ranch for use during the summer.

Now the creek runs dry a lot of the time. Turner says the aquifers have been depleted by the nearby coal mines. Not long ago he had to dig a well more than 1,000 feet to reach the water.

Turner has also lost access to 6,000 acres of public land where he used to graze his cows. That’s where the mines are today.

Many of his neighbors don’t believe that humans are contributing to global climate change. It’s pretty clear to him that things are changing, and that burning coal is a reason.

Coal By The Numbers

  • More than 160,000 acres of land in Wyoming have been disturbed by mining.
  • About 4 percent of that land has been sufficiently restored to warrant final bond release.
  • Median household income is $78,356 in Wyoming’s Campbell County, home of 12 Powder River Basin coal mines.
  • More than 400 million tons of coal are extracted in Wyoming each year. That’s almost half the total amount of coal mined in the U.S.

Sources: Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality Land Quality Division, United States Census Bureau, State of Wyoming Department of Revenue.

Click on any image below to visit Voices of Coal.

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© 2013 KUOW
Voices of Coal coal LJ Turner mines Powder River Basin Gillette
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