Murkowski’s Advocacy Helps Reap Secure Rural Schools Payments “Holiday Gift”
Administration: Next Round of Payments Will Not Be Reduced
Senator Lisa Murkowski today commended the Administration for its decision to not reduce the next round of payments to be made to Southeast Alaska timber communities under the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.
Earlier this year, Senator Murkowski was sharply critical of the Forest Service's decision to apply the automatic, across-the-board federal budget cuts commonly known as “sequestration,” to Secure Rural Schools payments that had previously been made for 2013. Alaska was asked to return the 5.1 percent of the timber payments received earlier this year to the U.S. Treasury.
Secure Rural Schools requires the Forest Service to make payments to communities impacted by the severe decline in timber receipts from national forest lands. Communities that once had thriving timber industries now depend on the funds to pay for schools, emergency services and other local services. Funding for the next year of the program was provided in the High Technology Jobs Preservation Act, a bill sponsored and shepherded through the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and the Senate by Senator Murkowski.
“While it would be preferable for the Forest Service to actively manage our forests so that our communities are not dependent on these payments,” Murkowski said. “The news that the 2014 payments will not be reduced by sequestration is a holiday gift."
The Forest Service manages more than 22 million acres of national forest lands in Alaska, including nearly all of the land in Southeast.