US Forest Service Announces Rural
Schools Funding Details
January 19, 2013
(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced this week that over $323 million will be paid to 41 states and Puerto Rico in two distributions to support local schools and roads as part of the Congressional one-year reauthorization of 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 or boroughs ultimately decide to share in that payment.
Since 1908, the Forest Service has shared with states 25 percent of gross receipts from timber sales, grazing, minerals, recreation, and other land use fees on national forests to benefit public schools and public roads in the counties or boroughs in which the forests are situated.
With 21,956,783 acres of national forest in Alaska, the state will receive $15.5 million of the $323 million paid nationwide or $0.71 per acre. The amount per acreage for Alaska is low compared to the amounts received by other states such as Pennsylvania which has 513,316 acres of national forest with that state's average payment per acre at $6.83. The lowest payment per acre of $0.31 is paid to Illinois.
For Southeast Alaska communities, the 25% Payment, Secure Rural Schools Act State Payment or covered state’s transition payment (title I and title III, not title II), and special acts payments as applicable are as follows:
Ketchikan Gateway Borough has 3,052,119 acres of the Tongass National Forest in its area. Ketchikan will receive $0.37 per acre for a total payment of $1,138,031.41.
Juneau has 1,710,521 acres of the Tongass National Forest in its area and will receive $.048 per acre for a total payment of $824,221.22.
Sitka has 1,795,944 acres of the Tongass National Forest in its borough and will receive $0.60 per acre for a total payment of $1,073,350.34.
Wrangell has 1,598,367 acres of the Tongass National Forest in its borough and will receive $0.80 per acre for a total of $1,280,838.66.
Skagway has 89,023 acres of the Tongass National Forest in its borough and will receive $0.42 per acre or a $37,020.28 payment.
Haines has 915,973 acres in its borough and will receive $0.41 per acre or a total payment of $377,899.49.
Earlier this year the U.S. Forest Service sent letters to each state advising them of the opportunity for counties or boroughs where national forests are situated to receive a share of the state's payment based on the July 6 reauthorization of the act.
New language in the reauthorization required states to inform the agency how counties plan to allocate their share of the state's payment. The payments may be used for supporting public schools and public roads, for projects to help maintain and improve the health of forests, and for county projects including "Firewise Communities" programs, reimbursements for emergency services on national forests, and development of community wildfire protection plans.
"These forest projects were reviewed and recommended by resource advisory committees made up of local residents working together to improve the environment and help provide jobs in rural communities," Vilsack said.
In the late 1980s, due largely to declines in timber sale receipts, payments began to drop significantly and fluctuate widely. In 1994, Congress responded by providing "safety net payments" to counties in northern California, western Oregon and western Washington.
In 2000, Congress passed the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act that provided enhanced, stabilized payments to more states through 2006. The act was extended for one year and then reauthorized in 2008 for four more years. Last year's reauthorization provides benefits for an additional year.
Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
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