Latest: Senators aim to revive rural funding

In the meantime, states tighten their belts.

  • A Youth Conservation Corps team builds a bridge in the Willamette National Forest, a project funded by the Secure Rural Schools Act.

    U.S. Forest Service

The Secure Rural Schools Act was enacted in 2000 to compensate rural counties — most of them in the 11 Western states — for lost timber revenues after federal-lands logging dropped in the 1990s. The program has received bipartisan support, but its funding expires every few years, and if Congress fails to reauthorize payments, schools, road projects and public safety in timber country get left in the lurch (“Seeking balance in Oregon’s timber country,” HCN, 5/6/13). 

The Secure Rural Schools Act expired again in 2015, with the last payments made in March 2016. Now, a group of 29 senators, led by Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Idaho Republicans Jim Risch and Mike Crapo, is working to reauthorize the act. Until then, starting in mid-February, states will receive severely reduced funds. Oregon, which obtains the most federal money, will go from $86.4 million to $7 million — a 92 percent cut —if the act is not renewed.

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