President Biden and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service announced investment of more than $238 million to support public schools, roads, and other municipal services through the Secure Rural Schools Program, which will deliver payments to 742 eligible counties in 41 states and Puerto Rico.
The program was reauthorized for fiscal years 2021 through 2023 by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
The announcement is one of several being made as the Biden-Harris Administration is in the midst of its building a better America rural infrastructure tour which is highlighting the ways in which President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will positively impact rural communities.
“These crucial investments by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will strengthen these rural communities that are historically, culturally and financially connected to the national forests in their communities,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “It is just another demonstration of the President’s commitment to Building A Better America by making sure the people, communities and resources of rural America are supported, protected and uplifted.”
“The Secure Rural Schools program is one of many ways USDA supports rural communities and provides a consistent source of funding in areas near national forests,” Forest Service Chief Randy Moore said. “In addition to funding for schools and counties, the program also reimburses counties for emergency services on national forests and is instrumental in the development of community wildfire protection plans.”
The Forest Service retains a portion of Secure Rural Schools program funds to support projects that improve forest conditions and support jobs in rural communities. Resource advisory committees, made up of residents representing varied interests and areas of expertise, review and recommend projects that meet their local needs.
Since 1908, 25% of Forest Service revenues from timber sales, mineral leases, livestock grazing, recreation fees, and other funding sources are shared with states and counties that have national forests. By the 1990s, Forest Service payments from these sources began to decline, largely because of long-term diminished volume in timber sales. The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 authorized enhanced payments to help states and counties fund local services otherwise at risk 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 for distribution to counties. Each state’s payment amount is determined by various factors set in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, including the number of counties electing to share in a state’s payment.