President Biden and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service announced an investment of more than $238 million to support public schools, roads, and other city services through the Secure Rural Schools program, which will pay payments to 742 eligible counties in 41 states and Puerto Rico.
The program was reauthorized for fiscal years 2021 to 2023 by the bipartisan Infrastructure Act.
The announcement is one of many coming as the Biden-Harris administration builds a Better America Rural Infrastructure Tour that highlights the ways President Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law will have a positive impact. on rural communities.
“These critical investments from President Biden’s bipartisan Infrastructure Act will strengthen those rural communities that are historically, culturally and financially connected to the National Forests in their communities,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “This is just another demonstration of the President’s commitment to building a better America by ensuring the people, communities and resources of rural America are supported, protected and uplifted.”
“The Secure Rural Schools program is one of the many ways the USDA supports rural communities and provides a consistent source of funding in areas near national forests,” said Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. “In addition to funding schools and counties, the program also reimburses counties for emergency services in national forests and is instrumental in developing community wildfire protection plans.”
The Forest Service retains a portion of funds from the Secure Rural Schools program to support projects that improve forest conditions and support jobs in rural communities. Resource Advisory Committees, made up of residents representing various interests and areas of expertise, review and recommend projects that meet their local needs.
Since 1908, 25% of Forest Service revenues from timber sales, mining leases, livestock grazing, recreation fees, and other sources of funding have been shared with states and counties that own national forests. In the 1990s, Forest Service payments from these sources began to decline, largely due to the long-term decline in the volume of timber sales. The Safe Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 authorized enhanced payments to help states and counties fund local services otherwise threatened because of this decline in revenue.
Over the past 10 years, the Forest Service has distributed $2.6 billion through the Secure Rural Schools program.
This year, states will receive $238 million to distribute to counties. The amount of each state’s payment is determined by various factors defined in the bipartisan Infrastructure Act, including the number of counties choosing to share a state’s payment.