WASHINGTON, D.C. (Aug. 4, 2015) – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden joined with Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) to introduce a bill today to reauthorize and fund the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program for six years, permanently reauthorize and fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), and permanently fund the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program.
Sen. Ron Wyden wrote the original Secure Rural Schools act, which since 2000 has brought nearly $3 billion to Oregon counties for use in local schools, law enforcement and roads. And Wyden also has been a steadfast supporter of both mandatory Payment in Lieu of Taxes funding and permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
“These three programs add up to a Triple Crown of gains for Oregon,” Wyden said. “Rural Oregonians should receive the certainty and stability their communities deserve with the extension of SRS and making PILT mandatory. And all of Oregon’s recreation and tourism economy would benefit from permanent funding for LWCF projects — the surest path to protect the natural icons we all hold dear in our state.”
Wyden and Heinrich are members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
The SRS program was created in 2000 to provide consistent and reliable funding for more than 775 rural counties and 4,400 schools located near national forests across the country. SRS helps pay for schools, roads, and emergency response services in rural counties, and forest health projects in national forests. The legislation introduced today would grant a six-year extension to provide certainty for these communities and support the continued diversification of economic development in these rural counties.
The bill also seeks to reauthorize and permanently fund LWCF. This highly-successful conservation program is set to expire on September 30. Since LWCF’s inception, more than $4 billion has been made available to state and local governments to fund more than 40,000 projects in the country.
Using revenues from offshore oil and gas development, LWCF provides funding for additions to national parks, national wildlife refuges, national forests and other federal public lands, making it the principal source of funds for federal acquisition of lands for outdoor recreation, habitat preservation and protection of special natural, cultural, and historic resources. LWCF has only received full funding once in its 50 years of existence, and many worthy projects are left unfunded each year.
Additionally, the bill would permanently fund the PILT program. PILT is administered through the Department of the Interior and compensates rural counties for certain federal lands that cannot be taxed, including Bureau of Land Management land and national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges. Funding for each county is determined by a formula and is based on the number of acres of federal land within each county or jurisdiction and the population of that county or jurisdiction. Restoring mandatory funding of PILT not only provides certainty, but also improves infrastructure, safety, and strengthens rural counties that depend on public lands.