Some rural districts depend on a share of proceeds from federal timber sales for funding. Revenue from timber sales has dropped dramatically, resulting in a severe loss of revenue to these districts.
The losses have had a devastating impact on districts dependent upon funding from timber sales. They have resulted in staff reductions, elimination of extracurricular activities, cancellation of school meal programs and the forgoing of much needed building maintenance and repair.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released more than $384 million to 41 states and Puerto Rico under the NEA-supported Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000, popularly known as the Forest County Schools Bill. The money will help rural communities improve public schools, invest in road improvement projects and strengthen forest stewardship programs. The legislation brings relief to rural schools dependent on logging revenue from federal lands. It represents a critical step in guaranteeing adequate education funding for rural forest communities.
Many rural, timber-dependent communities have seen dramatic reductions in federal forest-land revenues due to significant decreases in federal timber sales. Payments to some local schools dropped to less than ten percent of their historic levels. Devastating losses of education funding led to reductions in teaching staff and other education personnel, elimination of extracurricular programs, cancellation of school meals programs, and postponement of desperately needed building repairs. This legislation ensures a predictable payment to federally-impacted forest counties. Guaranteed, consistent funding, such as that provided in this legislation, is essential to stabilize rural education.
Based on legislation passed in 1908, 25 percent of Forest Service revenues from timber sales, grazing, recreation, some mineral use fees and other land use receipts go to states that host national forests. The new legislation gave counties the option of staying with the traditional payment plan or choosing a predictable payment based on the average of the state's three highest payments between fiscal years 1986and 1999. Some 75 percent of the 700-plus counties affected elected to use the new formula.
Over the next six years, the USDA, through the Forest Service, will provide another $1.1 billion for schools and rural communities in addition to the initial $384 million recently released.