Though Westerners tend to idealize frontier independence, rural county governments often rely on Uncle Sam. Federal payment programs meant to compensate counties for lost cash from tax-exempt public lands distributed about $900 million nationwide in 2009. One of these programs -- the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS) -- was barely renewed in 2008 and is set to expire in 2011 unless a cash-strapped Congress revives it. The program helps counties fund schools, roads and stewardship projects as they transition from dwindling timber and grazing revenues. Few are dependent on paybacks, but some counties would surely go under without the help, despite their outspoken anti-federal ire.
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