Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley along with U.S. Representative Val Hoyle today reintroduced a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the U.S. Forest Service’s Secure Rural Schools and Self-Determination Program (SRS) through 2026.
“Two decades ago, I recognized the need for federal support for rural forested counties working to sustain and diversify economic opportunities in their communities,” Wyden said. “I fought then to pass, and have continued since, the essential Secure Rural Schools program that has delivered nearly $4 billion to hard-hit counties in rural Oregon – and additional funding across 42 states – with bipartisan support. This investment keeps local schools funded, communities safe with law enforcement resources, and roads maintained – and it’s why we have to keep this lifeline intact.”
“Our bipartisan bill provides reliable funding that is crucial to keeping schools and libraries open, maintaining roads, restoring watersheds, and ensuring there are police officers and firefighters to keep communities safe,” Merkley said. “Congress must continue the SRS program so Oregon communities can maintain access to these important lifelines and resources.”
“The Secure Rural Schools program has been a lifeline to rural communities by supporting students, roads, and public safety. It’s essential that funding for Secure Rural Schools is extended, and I’m proud to introduce the bipartisan Secure Rural Schools Reauthorization Act with Senators Wyden and Merkley,” Hoyle said. “In lieu of timber receipts, the federal government should stand by its commitment to support rural communities and their critical infrastructure.”
“Extending Secure Rural Schools for three years will help counties with large tracts of federal forests meet the needs of residents and visitors,” said National Association of Counties Executive Director Matthew Chase. “Without SRS, counties would face, on average, an 80 percent drop in resources for infrastructure improvement, education programs and forest health projects. We also welcome this bill’s proposed reforms to expedite the Resource Advisory Committee appointment process. We urge Congress to swiftly pass this legislation.”
SRS—originally co-authored by Wyden—was enacted in 2000 to financially assist counties with public, tax-exempt forestlands. Since then, Wyden, Crapo, Merkley and Risch have worked to give SRS a more permanent role in assisting rural counties with large tracts of federal lands. The totals are based on a formula including economic activity, timber harvest levels and other considerations that vary from county to county. SRS payments are critical to maintain education programs for many rural counties that contain federal lands exempt from property taxes.
A web version of this release is here.