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Forest County Schools May Get One-Year Extension

An appropriation of $400 million and a one-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Act, PL 106-393, that funds schools in the nation's 780 forest counties, is included in the large supplemental funding bill before the House. Members of the National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition are pressing the 110th Congress to act.

PL 106-393 provides financial support for rural schools, job creation and economic stability in counties that are affected by the National Forest system. It had the strong backing of many members of the U. S. House of Representatives and Senate in 2006, with co-sponsors of 81 members of the House and 22 senators.

The Forest Counties and Schools Coalition is a partnership of education groups, local government, labor, business, agricultural, and conservation organizations, that secured passage of the original act in 2000. The National Forest system, created in 1905, removed 153 million acres of forest land from future settlement and economic development. That action diminished the tax base for community infrastructure, especially schools and roads in the forest counties. In 1908, Congress passed a revenue-sharing mechanism that specified that 25 percent of revenues would be shared with the affected counties. By the 1980s, changes in forest management policies had dramatically reduced revenues to these local jurisdictions, sometimes as much as 90 percent.

The National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition, formed in 1998, secured passage of PL 106-393 in 2000. As a result, an estimated 4,400 rural schools receive funds, 780 counties receive funds for roads, and some 3,000 community programs have received funds for forest fuels reduction, watershed restoration, habitat improvement, reforestation, compground and trail improvement, and noxious week eradication. In addition, forest counties have been able to offset costs of search and rescue work on federal lands, conduct forest-related outdoor education programs, and develop fire prevention strategies.

For further information about this legislation and other NFCSC programs, visit the website of the National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition.