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Boise, ID – On Thursday, U.S. Sens. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) led a bipartisan rally alongside school, county, state, and industry leaders to announce the reintroduction of the Forest Management for Rural Stability Act. The legislation will create a long-term solution for rural forest counties that rely on Secure Rural Schools (SRS) funds.

“The federal government has a moral obligation to pay for the services it gets from the hardworking local and county officials that operate on federally owned land. It becomes a legal obligation every year as we wrestle to get the votes,” Risch said at the rally. “This has been an ongoing effort, and fixing it is way overdue. The time is ripe to get this done and make this a permanent legal obligation of the United States of America. We’re going to get this done.”

Background: Since 1908, communities living near National Forests have collected funds generated by timber harvesting in lieu of property taxes. These funds were put towards providing critical county services like road maintenance, education, and search and rescue missions. When national policies changed in the 1980s, timber revenues from federal lands began to decline. In response to this trend, the SRS program was initiated in 2000 to make up for depleted payments once generated by timber receipts. These funds enable rural communities to maintain roads, invest in infrastructure, run rural schools, and provide critical county services.

In recent years, Congress has allowed SRS funding to lapse and payment amounts have become unpredictable, creating acute financial uncertainty for these counties. When authorization for SRS lapsed in FY 2016, the average payments to affected rural counties dropped by more than 80 percent.

The Forest Management for Rural Stability Act will eliminate the guessing game rural communities are forced to endure regarding the fate of their uneven and unpredictable SRS payments. The legislation will create an endowment that will generate a steady stream of income and provide lasting relief to Idaho’s rural forest counties and communities.

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