The House of Representatives is expected to vote on H.R. 1526, Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act, on Wednesday or Thursday of this week. AFBF supports H.R. 1526 and will be sending a letter out today or tomorrow in support.
H.R. 1526 provides a long-term solution for continuing revenue sharing payments to rural counties containing National Forest land by implementing an active forest management plan. The bill requires responsible timber production on at least half of the Forest Service’s commercial timber lands. The Forest Service would be responsible for identifying the specific areas for timber production. The counties would receive 25 percent of the revenues from the timber sales. This revenue allows rural counties to stabilize funding for schools, infrastructure projects and critical county services. H.R. 1526 also provides a short-term extension of the Secure Rural Schools (SRS) Act payments to secure funding for rural counties while the Forest Service transitions to the active forest management.
The SRS Act was signed into law in 2000 to provide assistance to rural counties affected by the decline in revenue from timber harvests on federal lands. The act was reauthorized in 2008 and 2011. The funds are used for schools, roads, to create employment opportunities, maintain current infrastructure, and improve the health of watersheds and ecosystems.
The SRS Act was not reauthorized for Fiscal Year 2013, which creates budgetary shortfalls for 729 rural counties if Congress fails to meet its federal obligation to these rural counties. In Fiscal Year 2012, rural counties received an estimated $346 million in funding through the SRS Act. More than 9 million school children are impacted by the loss of SRS funding.
Please contact your Congressman and ask him to support H.R. 1526, Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act.
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