Boise, ID – U.S. Sens. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) will lead a news conference on Thursday, May 30th at 12:30 PM on the Idaho Statehouse South Steps to announce the reintroduction of federal legislation creating a lasting endowment for forested counties through the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program. They will be joined by leaders from Idaho’s schools, counties, industry and restoration groups, in addition to Idaho State Treasurer Julie Ellsworth, who coordinates distribution of the funds.
The SRS program provides much-needed financial certainty for rural counties to ensure they have the long-term funding needed for schools, road maintenance, law enforcement and other essential services.
The bipartisan Forest Management for Rural Stability Act, which the senators, including Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon), first introduced in December 2018, makes the Secure Rural Schools program—which expired at the end of FY 2018—permanent by creating an endowment fund to provide stable, increasing and reliable funding for county services.
“For too long, active forest management has not been made a priority, SRS payments have been unreliable, and Idaho's rural counties have paid the price,” Risch said. "These communities deserve a long-term solution that enables them to provide critical county services, and this legislation helps restore predictability while investing in county projects and timber management.”
“It is time to create a permanent, lasting program for Idaho counties and schools surrounded by tax-exempt federal lands,” Crapo said. “A long-term endowment assisted by forest products receipts would ensure certainty for parents, students and those traveling Idaho’s roads and bridges.”
“This is a matter of making sure Oregonians living and working in rural counties have the financial certainty they need and deserve,” Wyden said. “It’s time to put an end to the financial roller coaster in forested counties in Oregon and permanently invest in our teachers, law enforcement officers, bridges and roads.”
“One of Oregon’s many treasures is our vast swaths of public lands,” Merkley said. “Since they’re not part of the local tax base, the counties that contain those lands deserve permanent, consistent support from the federal government to fund basic necessities like schools, law enforcement, and infrastructure. I’m urging my colleagues to fulfill this essential commitment to every family in our rural communities without delay.”
Legislative text can be found here. A one-page summary of the bill can be found here and a longer summary of the bill can be found here.
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