U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer of the 6th Congressional District said last Friday that he helped secure more than $12.5 million to support Washington’s public schools, road and other municipal services through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Secure Rural Schools (SRS) program.
In addition to payments for schools and roads, the SRS program supports Firewise Communities programs, reimburses counties for emergency services on national forests, and funds development of community wildfire protection plans.
Beginning in 1908, SRS allowed the U.S. Forest Service to share 25% of its revenues from timber sales, mineral leases, livestock grazing, recreation fees, and other sources with counties in and around national forests. By the 1980s, largely because of diminished timber sales volume, Forest Service revenues from these sources began to decline.
The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 replaced the revenue sharing model with a guaranteed level of payments, giving forest-dependent rural communities a more reliable set of funding while protecting forest resources that provide clean water, recreation opportunities and other benefits.
“For more than 100 years, the federal government has recognized the financial stresses facing rural communities — particularly areas with federal forests,” Kilmer said to advocates from Washington state and the National Association of Counties in front of the U.S. Capitol in 2019.
“That’s why I’ve continued to push for full funding of the Secure Rural Schools program, which provides federal support for rural communities — funding schools, law enforcement, and essential county services like public health programs,” he said in a news release.