Rural School Funding with Community-Based Forest Management

Oct 30, 2000

New Law of the Land:
Rural School Funding with Community-Based Forest Management
"Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-determination Act of 1999"

Signed into law Monday morning, "The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-determination Act of 1999" (H.R. 2389) is landmark policy on two important fronts.  First, it provides critical funding for schoolchildren in hundreds of rural communities.  Second, it creates a new standard for local citizen participation in the management of federal forest lands.

In 1908, the government promised to share the revenue of forest lands with the local people to sustain their schools, their communities, and their way of life. This arrangement compensated these communities for the economic opportunities lost from federal government ownership of the land taken off the local school property tax rolls.  However, recent federal policies on timber management have eliminated the government's financial contribution into local communities, resulting in schools cutting their services, and in some cases, closing for lack of funding.

"By shoring up federal payments to rural forest communities, this legislation restores our government's commitment to education in rural forest communities," said Agriculture Forestry Subcommittee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), who sponsored the final measure.

"Significantly, and this is a very important point in this time of intense debate on education in our country, the commitments made to education in this bill come without strings attached," said Goodlatte.  "That means the local community, not the federal government, will determine how that funding is best used.  If local schools need books, they can buy books. If they need additional teachers, they can hire them. If they need to fix the roof on a school, they can do it. This philosophy of federal support coupled with local decision-making should be a model for the Congress as we work to improve education in our country."

Also, for the first time, local communities will have a direct stake in the management of national forests.  Counties can also use this funding to restore watersheds, improve fish and wildlife habitat, and enhance the overall health of our forests. It establishes a framework for local collaboration that will replace the current centralized command and control policy with a new and effective way to resolve forest management issues at the local level using local expertise.

$1.1 billion over five years to rural counties adjacent to national forests.
80% of the funding (approximately $900 million) will help rural communities improve schools and roads.
Approximately $200 million to support community-based resource management projects on, and adjacent to, national forests.

###