National Forests Revenues
“Forest Monies; the Effort to Reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act”
In 1908, in response to the mounting opposition to the creation of forest reserves in the West, Congress passed a bill which created a revenue sharing mechanism to offset for forest counties the effects of removing these lands from economic development. The 1908 Act specified that 25 % of all revenue generated from the national forests would be shared with the counties where those revenues were generated to support public roads and public schools. From 1986 to the present, these payments, because of the decline in timber sales, have decreased over 85%.
This steep decline in revenues led to the formation of the National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition in 1998. The Coalition is an umbrella organization of over 1,600 local, state, regional and national organizations-including local and county governments, public school districts, organized labor, business and industry, and forest user groups. This broad Coalition supported enactment of PL 106-393, to relieve the loss of Forest Reserve Revenue.
The Secure rural and School and Community Self Determination Act is truly an American success story. In 2000, Congress passed PL 106-393 which restored programs for students in rural schools and prevented the closure of numerous isolated rural schools. Over 4,400 rural school districts receive funding, which benefits over 9 million children.
Funding is also used by counties to offset the rising cost of search and rescue work on federal lands. Since the passage of the bill, over 10 counties have been actively engaged in developing Community Wildfire Protection Plans.
How does this affect our county? Our county receives close to 2 million dollars per year. These schools receive close to $850,000 and the county roads receive the same. The remaining money goes to fund items like search and Rescue that generally comes out of the general fund. Schools receive money based on their enrollment. Specifically, Sonora High receives . This equates to the salaries of about 3 teachers. Schools rely on this money. Our county roads department relies on this money.
A national effort is underway to have the money placed in the President’s 2012 budget for this Act. To this date, we have received a very warm and positive response from Congressmen and Senators from states that have rural counties. Both of our Senators are very supportive. Keep your fingers crossed over the next few months as everyone in our county will benefit from the Act being funded.