Agriculture Department officials recently announced the agency would provide $272 million in support of local schools and roads in 41 states and Puerto Rico. The funding is authorized through the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. The actual amount of each state’s payment is determined by a number of factors written into the law, including how many counties had elected to share in that payment.
Since 1908, 25 percent of USDA’s Forest Service revenues, such as those from timber sales, mineral resources and grazing fees, have been returned to states in which national forest lands are located. Rural communities and schools rely on these revenues to provide education services, road maintenance and conservation projects. In the late 1980s, national resource policies diminished revenue-generating activity in the forests, and by 1998, revenues for these communities had declined by more than 70 percent. The decline affected more than 780 counties nationwide and more than 9 million school children.
The act was signed into law in 2000 to provide assistance to rural counties affected by the decline in revenue from timber harvests on federal lands. The funds are used for schools, roads and maintaining current infrastructure, in addition to creating employment opportunities and improving the health of watersheds and ecosystems.