Washington, D.C. — Eastern Washington Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-05) and Congressman Joe Neguse (CO-02) reintroduced the bipartisan Secure Rural Schools Reauthorization Act. This legislation would reauthorize the U.S. Forest Service’s Secure Rural Schools (SRS) and Self-Determination Program through 2023. Cathy has successfully fought for reauthorization of this program during previous Congresses.
“The financial certainty the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program provides is critical to people in rural Eastern Washington,” said Rodgers. “This legislation funds important infrastructure projects, public education, law enforcement, and other essential services to ensure no one in timber-dependent communities gets left behind. I’m proud to help lead this bipartisan bill to reauthorize the SRS program, protect these resources, and further invest in our rural communities.”
The Secure Rural Schools Reauthorization Act was first introduced in 2000 to assist counties containing tracts of federally-owned land that are tax-exempt. The program provides payments derived in part through timber receipts and other leasing activities within National Forests back to county governments where those forests are located.
“As we work to invest in America’s future, we must continue to provide support for our rural and mountain communities so that everyone can participate in the 21st Century. The Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program is a primary source of funding for schools, mountain search and rescue, road maintenance and other services that Coloradans rely on — from Walden to Glenwood Springs, and Granby to Grand Junction. I am proud to continue to work on this critical piece of legislation and will always advocate for our rural schools to ensure they receive the funding they need,” said Neguse.
Companion legislation has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID), Ron Wyden (D-OR), James Risch (R-ID), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).
NOTE: Nearly 100 years ago, Congress passed legislation to specify that 25 percent of revenues from timber harvests on federal lands would be shared with affected counties. These funds went to public schools, roads, and other municipal needs. Unfortunately, over the past few decades, timber production has drastically fallen on federal lands. This has devastated the tax base and virtually eliminated revenue sharing for essential services. Reforms are needed to better take care of our forests and get people back to work. In the meantime, certainty needs to be provided to our counties by extending SRS. Currently, the uncertainty caused by the expiration of this program makes it nearly impossible for these counties to plan annual budgets or invest in public education or infrastructure.