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County payments return to rural counties

Blue Mountain Eagle

Published on April 28, 2015 9:38AM

Washington, D.C. – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced this week that $285 million will go to rural counties in 41 states thanks to the two-year renewal of the Secure Rural Schools funding.

The funding announcement follows the Senate’s passage of the extension.

“I’m grateful for the Congressional action to reauthorize this Act and understand how important these funds have become to the communities that receive them,” said Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell.

The payments may be used to support 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.

In Oregon, rural communities will receive about $60.8 million this year in funding for roads and schools, according to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, an architect of the program and the extension.

“Renewing county payments for two years provides the time rural Oregon deserves to fund immediate education and safety needs and that Congress needs to build support for longer-term economic solutions that help rural America,” Wyden said.

Wyden co-wrote the original SRS program in 2000 with then-Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho. Since the start, it has brought almost $3 billion to rural Oregon counties.

The funding announced Monday is from the U.S. Forest Service, with additional funds to be announced in the future from the Bureau of Land Management.

The county-by-county breakdown shows some $4.3 million headed to Grant County, which has some 1.6 million acres of land within four national forests.

Wyden said he also is continuing to work on his O&C forestry legislation, which gained bipartisan support last year and would have increased the harvest for 50 years, according to federal land management agencies.

“The safety net of SRS working in tandem with my legislation to get the harvest up marks the kind of comprehensive long-term economic solution that can and should earn bipartisan support,” Wyden said.


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