US Forest Service Announces Payments to States to Support Local Schools and Roads
Payments set to be Reduced Substantially as Program Reauthorization was not Passed
WASHINGTON-Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that more than $50 million will be paid to 41 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to support local schools and roads under the Twenty-Five Percent Fund Act of 1908. The 1908 Act requiring 25-percent payments is permanent law and will guide 2014 distribution of payments, as the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act authority expired on September 30, 2014.
The Administration supported a 5-year reauthorization of the program to transition payments to counties in the fiscal year (FY) 2015 President's Budget. However, it has not been reauthorized and in the absence of SRS, payments to states revert to pre-existing law under the 1908 Act that mandates 25-percent payments to the states from receipts from national forests in each state. Seven-year rolling averages of receipts from national forests located in each state are required to calculate the 25-percent payments for the benefit of public schools and public roads. Unlike SRS, these payments do not allow states an election to allocate funds for work similar to Title II (conservation work on national forests) or Title III (county projects for Firewise programs, emergency services or community wildfire protection plans) authorized in the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.
This year, the estimated total amount of all 25-percent payments to all eligible states is about $50 million, compared to around $300 million available for the entire SRS program last year.
In the late 1980s, due largely to declines in timber sale receipts, 1908 Act payments began to drop significantly and fluctuate. 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. It also created a forum for community interests to participate collaboratively in the selection of natural resource projects on the National Forests, and has assisted in community wildfire protection planning. This is the first year since then that the act was not reauthorized. Here is information on funding amounts by State.