Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Mike Crapo today introduced bipartisan legislation to extend the Secure Rural Schools program by one year, through Fiscal Year 2019.
The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS) was first introduced in 2000 to assist counties containing tracts of federally-owned land that is tax-exempt.
Critical services at the county level have historically been funded in part with a 25 percent share of timber receipts from federal Forest Service lands, and a 50 percent share of timber receipts from federal Oregon and California Grant Lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management. As those revenues have fallen due to reduced timber harvest, SRS payments have helped bridge the gap to fund rural schools, road maintenance, search and rescue efforts and other services.
Authorization for the Secure Rural Schools program is expiring. The Wyden-Crapo bill would put in place a one-year extension while more long-term measures can be explored.
“This program is critical to making sure schools, law enforcement, and road programs in rural communities in Oregon and around the country have the support they need for residents’ quality of life,” said Wyden, who co-authored the original SRS legislation with then-Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho.
“Congress cannot allow the payments from this essential program to lapse,” Wyden said. “It is imperative that it extend the Secure Rural Schools program and give rural counties the financial certainty they require, while Congress spends some quality time considering other options to support these counties moving forward.”
“Continuing this program is critical to our rural schools and road programs,” Crapo said. “A renewed SRS commitment coupled with a recovering and healthy timber economy will ensure a brighter future for students and those who enjoy the backcountry alike.”
The legislation is expected to draw wide bipartisan support. Last year, 78 members of the Senate and U.S. House of Representatives wrote a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) seeking to include the SRS program in the President’s budget recommendations.