Funding for schools and county roads improvement programs and stewardship projects in our national forests is alive and well, thanks to the Secure Rural Schools Act. It is the definition of people and land living and working together side-by-side.
What is the Secure Rural Schools Act?
The Secure Rural Schools Act provides consistent and reliable funding for over 775 rural counties and 4,400 schools located near national forests across the United States. The Act also helps pay for restoration and stewardship projects on our public lands and forests.
History behind the Act
Before the Secure Rural Schools Act was introduced in 2000, rural counties and schools received 25% of the revenues generated from timber sales from our national forests.
This was destructive to the communities who depended on the forests for clean drinking water, long-term restoration and stewardship jobs, not to mention incredible and free outdoor experiences.
Fortunately, Congress changed the funding system for counties and schools in 2000 with passage of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. The law replaced revenue sharing with a guaranteed level of payments that was no longer tied to the amount of timber produced from the National Forests.
What is “PILT” and how does it relate to the Act?
PILT or Payments in Lieu of Taxes are federal payments to rural communities that contain federal land, including national forests and parks. For counties with national forest land, PILT payments supplement the Secure Rural Schools program and help to ensure that local government services receive adequate funding.
Who supports the Act?
A diverse coalition of individuals and groups support the Secure Rural Schools Act. And why shouldn’t they? It benefits people from all walks of life. Among its supporters are:
- Rural communities and their citizens, elected officials and businesses
- Students, parents and teachers
- Restoration, stewardship and conservation workers
- Environmental organizations
Why is the Act important?
The Secure Rural Schools Act helps to protect and restore our national forests, while benefiting the rural communities that depend on them. America’s national forests provide clean drinking water to 60 million people; that’s one-fifth of the country.
If Congress does not reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools Act, funding that sustains America’s schools and rural communities could be gone, and the national forests could be logged or sold to replace the lost revenue.