MURKOWSKI AND STEVENS COSPONSOR LEGISLATION TO EXTEND SECURE RURAL SCHOOLS ACT
BILL WOULD PROVIDE AN ADDITIONAL YEAR OF PAYMENTS TO COMMUNITIES AND SCHOOL DISTRICTS RELIENT UPON FOREST TIMBER RECEIPTS
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senators Lisa Murkowski and Ted Stevens have signed on as cosponsors to legislation by Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) that would extend the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act by one year. The program provides a dedicated funding stream for local municipalities and school districts dependent on forest timber receipts that have been unable to rely on consistent and sustainable payments due the continued controversy over timber sales in National Forests.
“It is my hope that we can come to a long term solution that either extends the payment program or allows communities surrounded by National Forests the opportunity to have sustainable economic growth through timber development,” said Senator Murkowski. “In the meantime, this one-year extension will provide schools and communities the revenue they desperately need.”
“Though this legislation offers only a short-term fix, it is a good first step to ensuring that Alaska communities receive much needed funds for our schools. These monies are critical to Alaskans who have depended on receipts from timber sales in the past,” said Senator Stevens.
In 1908, Congress enacted legislation providing that 25 percent of Forest Service proceeds from National Forest lands would be shared with counties adjacent to the National Forests. By 2000, it became apparent that the amount of these 25 percent payments fluctuated widely and were impaired by controversy and litigation over timber sales in the National Forests. Congress and the Clinton Administration enacted the Secure Rural Schools Act to provide a safety net for forest schools and communities.
The Secure Rural Schools Act set aside about $1.6 billion in mandatory spending for Fiscal Years 2000 - 2006. During that period each State received annual “timber payments” equivalent to the average of the three highest payments it received from 1986-1999. Alaska receives about $9.3 million annually under this formula.
The Secure Rural Schools Act expired on September 30, 2006. If it is not reauthorized before the start of the 2007-2008 school year, Alaskan communities will receive timber payments under the previous 25 percent rule, and those payments will be about 85 percent lower than what Alaska receives under the Secure Rural Schools Act.