WASHINGTON, AUGUST 23, 2012 AT 9:45 AM EDT - The U.S. Forest Service today announced that the Congressional one-year reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act will mean payments of $308 million to states in support of schools and roads in rural counties.
The Forest Service is now sending letters to each state advising them of the opportunity for counties where national forests are situated to receive a share of the state’s payment based on the July 6 reauthorization.
“Our support of schools and roads in rural communities is one of the many ways the Forest Service is helping to sustain and stimulate economic growth across the country,” said Forest Chief Tom Tidwell. “Opportunity for students and communities in rural America is directly tied to the future prosperity of our nation.”
States have until Sept. 30 to inform the Forest Service which of their counties have elected to receive a payment. The actual amount will vary depending on a number of factors written into the law including how many counties ultimately decide to share in the state’s payment. After the Sept. 30 deadline the Forest Service will calculate actual amounts and coordinate with the U.S. Treasury to make the payments to the states in December.
New language in the reauthorization requires states to inform the agency how counties plan to allocate their share of the payment. Among the acceptable uses of the funding are supporting public schools, road repairs and for projects to help maintain and improve the health of forests.
Projected county shares of the state’s payment are on the Forest Service Web site athttp://www.fs.usda.gov/main/pts/securepayments/projectedpayments
Since 1908, the Forest Service has shared with states 25 percent of gross receipts from national forests to benefit public schools and public roads in the counties in which the forests are situated. The receipts are derived from timber sales, grazing, minerals, recreation, and other land use fees.
In the late 1980s, due largely to declines in timber sale receipts, payments began to drop significantly and fluctuate widely. In 1994, Congress responded by providing “safety net payments” to counties in northern California, western Oregon and western Washington.
In 2000, Congress passed the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act that provided enhanced, stabilized payments to more states through 2006. The act was extended for one year and then reauthorized in 2008 for four more years. This year’s reauthorization provides benefits for an additional year.