Federal Forest Projects
Federal Forest Projects
In October 2000, the U.S. Congress enacted Public Law 106-393, also known as the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000. In short, the Act provided several alternatives for distribution of federal forest revenues to counties and school districts.
Distribution Option 1 (25% Payment Amount) provided that counties would continue to receive 25% of actual revenues derived from timber harvest on federal forest lands within their jurisdiction according to the provisions of the 1908 & 1937 laws. However, this distribution method often resulted in an unpredictable revenue stream for counties and school districts.
Under the 25% Payment Amount formula, harvest revenues are shared as follows:
Road Fund 50%
School Districts 50%
Distribution Option 2 (Full Payment Amount) allowed counties to receive annual revenue for federal fiscal years 2001-2006, the amount of which was based on the average of the highest three years between 1986 and 1999. In exchange for a predictable revenue stream, counties were required to set aside a portion of the revenue (between 15% and 20%) for projects benefiting national forest lands. (See Title II and Title III discussion below.)
Under the Full Payment Amount formula, harvest revenues were shared as follows:
County (Title II/III) 15% or 20%
Road Fund 42.5% or 40%
School Districts 42.5% or 40%
When Public Law 106-393 was enacted, Cowlitz County elected to receive its full payment amount and allocated 15% of that amount to projects identified under Title III, thereby maximizing the amount of federal forest dollars available for roads and schools.
The legislation authorizing the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 expired on September 30, 2006. Congress adjourned in December 2006 without re-authorizing the law. Expiration of the law meant that the 1908 & 1937 formulas were to be reinstated: i.e. the 25% Payment Amount. The difficulty for counties and school districts is that there was not much harvest taking place on federal forest lands.
NACO and the National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition worked vigorously to obtain at least a one-year extension of the law before the end of March 2007. In addition, H.R. 17 (OR: Rep DeFazio) was introduced on January 4, 2007 and S 308 (OR: Sen Wyden) was introduced on January 24, 2007. Both bills proposed extensions of Public Law 106-393 through 2013. President Bush vetoed the bill when it was added on to the War Spending bill. However, on May 25, 2007, President Bush approved an Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill (HR 2206) which contained a one-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Act of 2000. The program was set to expire on September 20, 2008.
Current Status of Federal Program
On October 3, 2008, Congress enacted P.L. 110-343 (H.R. 1424) as part of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. This new legislation amends and reauthorizes the Secure Rural Schools Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-393) through 2011. P.L. 110-343 changes the formula for calculations for federal forest payments. The new formula is based on several factors, including acreage of Federal land, previous payments, and per capita personal income. The intent of the bill is to phase out federal forest payments, and as such, distributions will continue to decrease each year. The most recent extension was approved by Congress on October 2, 2013. The program is set to expire September 30, 2014.
Counties must elect each fiscal year the allocation method (full payment amount or 25% payment amount). It limits funds for Title III programs to a maximum of 7% and further requires that the County fund Title II projects with a minimum of 8% of its annual allocation. The balance not reserved for Title II or Title III projects must be returned to the U.S. Treasury.
The Cowlitz County Board of Commissioners elected to receive the full payment amount with 7% (maximum allowed) going to Title III and 8% going to Title II projects.
Title III funds must be used to (a) carry out the Firewise Communities Program (b) develop community wildfire protection plans, and (c) reimburse for emergency services paid for by counties and performed on Federal lands such as search and rescue or firefighting activities
Set-Asides to Benefit National Forest Lands
Counties may opt to pool funds with other jurisdictions or allocate them on local projects. Pooled funds are administered by a regional Resource Advisory Committee for Title II eligible projects. Local funds are administered by County Commissioners for Title III eligible projects.
Title II Eligible Projects
Title II projects are administered by the U.S. Forest Service through local Resource Advisory Committees. Projects must be on federal land or on state or private lands where the projects will benefit federal land resources. The legislation passed in October 2008 expands the role of Resource Advisory Committees to include monitoring of project progress and making recommendations for appropriate changes to projects being monitored. Eligible projects include:
- Road maintenance and decommissioning
- Stream and watershed restoration
- Maintaining infrastructure including trails
- Forest ecosystem stewardship
- Land health and water quality
- Control of noxious or exotic weeds
- Other projects consistent with the Forest Plan, including fish and wildlife habitat and restoring native species.