Washington, D.C.--U.S. Senator Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) was joined by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) in reintroducing a bipartisan bill to reauthorize the U.S. Forest Service’s Secure Rural Schools and Self-Determination Program (SRS) through 2026.
“SRS remains essential for rural counties across Idaho and the West,” said Crapo. “Extending SRS payments through 2026 is a good first step in ensuring Idaho’s counties have funding for schools, road maintenance, public safety, search and rescue operations as well as mental and physical health services. Still, we are working toward the goal of a permanent solution--alleviating uncertainty for rural county governments in the future.”
“Two decades ago, I recognized the need for federal support for rural forested counties working to sustain and diversify economic opportunities in their communities,” said Wyden. “I fought then to pass, and have continued since, the essential Secure Rural Schools program that has delivered nearly $4 billion to hard-hit counties in rural Oregon – and additional funding across 42 states – with bipartisan support. This investment keeps local schools funded, communities safe with law enforcement resources, and roads maintained – and it’s why we have to keep this lifeline intact.”
“Idaho’s schools and counties rely on SRS funding,” said Risch. “The federal government made a promise to rural communities, and until we can bring historic timber revenue back to these areas, Congress has an obligation to fulfill that promise. Congress must reauthorize SRS.”
“Our bipartisan bill provides reliable funding that is crucial to keeping schools and libraries open, maintaining roads, restoring watersheds, and ensuring there are police officers and firefighters to keep communities safe,” said Merkley. “Congress must continue the SRS program so Oregon communities can maintain access to these important lifelines and resources.”
U.S. Representatives Joe Neguse (D-Colorado), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington) and Val Hoyle (D-Oregon) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“Extending Secure Rural Schools for three years will help counties with large tracts of federal forests meet the needs of residents and visitors,” said National Association of Counties Executive Director Matthew Chase. “Without SRS, counties would face, on average, an 80 percent drop in resources for infrastructure improvement, education programs and forest health projects. We also welcome this bill’s proposed reforms to expedite the Resource Advisory Committee appointment process. Counties applaud the leadership of Senators Crapo, Wyden, and Risch and Representatives Neguse and McMorris Rodgers. We urge Congress to swiftly pass this legislation.”
SRS was enacted in 2000 to financially assist counties with public, tax-exempt forestlands. The U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management administer the funds. The totals are based on a formula including economic activity, timber harvest levels and other considerations that vary from county to county. SRS payments are critical to maintain education programs for many rural counties that contain federal lands exempt from property taxes.