Agriculture Secretary Announces Rural Schools Payments
More than $300 million to be distributed to 41 States and Puerto Rico
WASHINGTON, April 4, 2014--Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that over $300 million will be paid to 41 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in support of local schools and roads as part of the Congressional reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. The disbursement includes $30 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.
"This support is part of the Obama Administration's long-standing commitment to rural communities, schools and American youth," said Vilsack. "The Forest Service's century-long support of America's public schools and roads is one of many ways in which USDA contributes to rural communities becoming self-sustaining and prosperous."
The payments from the Forest Service may be used for supporting 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. These forest projects were reviewed and recommended by resource advisory committees made up of local residents working together to improve the environment and help provide jobs in rural communities.
Since 1908, the Forest Service has shared with states 25 percent of gross receipts from timber sales, grazing, minerals, recreation, and other land use fees on national forests to benefit public schools and public roads in the counties in which the forests are situated.
In the late 1980s, due largely to declines in timber sale receipts, payments began to fluctuate and drop significantly. In 1994, Congress provided "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 with a one-year reauthorization in 2012. The program was reauthorized in 2013 to provide benefits for an additional year.
The actual amount of each state's payment is determined by a number of factors written into the law, including how many counties ultimately decide to share in that payment. Each county's share of their state's payment amounts can be found on the Forest Service's Web site at http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/pts/securepayments/projectedpayments.
1/ Title II funds are allocated to national forests for conservation work identified by resource advisory committees.
The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, an agency 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. Forest Service lands 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 $27 billion per year.
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