WASHINGTON — USDA Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen announced the issuance of more than $193 million to support public schools, roads and other municipal services through the agency’s Secure Rural Schools program. The funding will be delivered as payments to more than 700 eligible counties in 41 states and Puerto Rico.
“The Secure Rural Schools program is one of many ways the Forest Service supports rural communities as a good neighbor,” said Chief Christiansen. “This support is part of USDA’s ongoing commitment to work hand-in-hand with community leaders and to provide vital economic relief to local communities.”
In addition to payments for schools and roads, the Secure Rural Schools program supports Firewise Communities programs, reimburses counties for emergency services on national forests, and funds development of community wildfire protection plans.
The Forest Service retains a portion of Secure Rural Schools program funds to support projects that improve forest conditions and support jobs in rural communities. Resource advisory committees, made up of local residents representing varied areas of interest and expertise, review and recommend projects that meet their local needs.
Beginning in 1908, the Secure Rural Schools program allowed the Forest Service to share 25% of its revenues from timber sales, mineral leases, livestock grazing, recreation fees, and other sources with counties in and around national forests. By the 1980s, largely because of diminished timber sales volume, Forest Service revenues from these sources began to decline.
The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 replaced the revenue sharing model with a guaranteed level of payments, giving forest-dependent rural communities a more reliable set of funding, while protecting forest resources that provide clean water, recreation opportunities and other benefits. These payments were most recently reauthorized for fiscal years 2019 and 2020 by the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020. Payment amounts are determined by a number of factors set in the law, including acres of federal land within an eligible county, an income adjustment based on the per capita personal income for each county, and the 5% reduction in the overall payments each year. A breakdown of funding by state and county is available on the Forest Service website.
Over the past 10 years, the Forest Service has distributed more than $2.3 billion through the Secure Rural Schools program. To learn more, visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/working-with-us/secure-rural-schools.
–USDA Forest Service
For more articles concerning forestry, click here.