$285 million to be distributed to 41 States and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that $285 million will go to 41 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico this year in support of local schools and roads as part of the Congressional two-year reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.
"This support is part of the administration's ongoing commitment to rural communities," said Secretary Vilsack. "The Forest Service's century-long support of America's public schools and roads is one of many ways in which USDA helps rural communities remain self-sustaining and prosperous."
"I'm grateful for the Congressional action to reauthorize this Act and understand how important these funds have become to the communities that receive them," said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. "We've been anticipating its passage and we are positioned to make the payments as rapidly as possible."
The payments from the Forest Service may be used to support public schools and public roads, for projects to help maintain and improve the health of forests; and for county projects including "Firewise Communities" programs, reimbursements for emergency services on national forests, and development of community wildfire protection plans. The forest projects are reviewed and recommended by resource advisory committees made up of local residents working together to improve the environment and to help provide jobs in rural communities.
The disbursement includes $28 million in Title II funding to complete special conservation projects on Federal lands proposed by resource advisory committees. Funding is provided through the U.S. Forest Service.
New language in the reauthorization will lock-in the allocation elections made by counties for Fiscal Year 2013 for the following two fiscal years. The deadline to initiate a Title II or Title III project has been extended to Sept. 30, 2017 and the deadline to obligate Title II or Title III funds has been extended to Sept. 30, 2018.
The actual amount of each state's payment is determined by a number of factors written into the law, including how many counties had elected to share in that payment. Each county's share of their state's payment amounts is available on the Forest Service Payments and Receipts Web site.
The mission of the Forest Service, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the Nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the Nation's clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.