Interior Announces $14 Million in Payments to Rural Schools in Western Oregon Counties

5/7/2018
Last edited 5/7/2018

Date: May 7, 2018
Contact: Interior_Press@ios.doi.gov

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced today that the Bureau of Land Management will issue payments totaling $14 million for Fiscal Year 2018 to 18 counties in western Oregon eligible under the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act extension. The BLM manages the Secure Rural Schools program ​in Oregon and California Railroad Revested Lands, known as the O&C Lands, ​in concert with the U.S. Forest Service.

“As a kid who grew up in northwest Montana and whose sons graduated from the same high school as I did, I know how important ​SRS payments​​ are to local communities that have Federal ​forests. These investments are one of the ways the federal government is fulfilling its role of being a good land manager and good neighbor to local communities,”​​ said Secretary Zinke. “​States like Oregon with large federal land holdings, play a big part in feeding and powering the nation and also in providing recreation ​and economic ​opportunities​ thanks to our Federal forests. Earlier this year the Trump Administration was able to secure millions of dollars in back funding for O&C counties and I'm happy to follow it up with another important payment.”

“This announcement is welcome news for Oregon counties who rely on these funds to provide essential services like schools, infrastructure, and law enforcement. I am proud to have worked with my colleagues to secure two years of full funding for the Secure Rural Schools program to support our rural forested communities, and I applaud Secretary Zinke and the Trump Administration for promptly issuing these payments," said Congressman Greg Walden. “While this safety-net funding is important and needed, there is much more work to be done to reform federal forest policy, put people back to work in our woods, and provide sustainable revenue to support local services. I will continue working alongside my colleagues in Congress and the Administration to find long-term solutions to ensure Oregon’s rural communities have the resources they need to succeed.”

The O&C Lands, lie in a checkerboard pattern through 18 counties of western Oregon. These lands contain more than 2.4 million acres of forests with a diversity of plant and animal species, recreation areas, mining claims, grazing lands, cultural and historical resources, scenic areas, wild and scenic rivers, and wilderness. Most of the O&C lands are administered by the BLM. SRS payments are made to over 700 counties across the United States, including the 18 counties containing O&C Lands, according to a formula set by Congress. These payments support public schools and other county services.

In March, Congress passed the 2018 spending bill, P.L. 115-141, that included reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools program. Secure rural school payments to counties will resume, including retroactive payments for FY17. The provision requires that these payments be made within 45 days of the bill’s enactment. The law does not provide for retroactive payments for FY16. 

Of the $14.0 million in payments to the O&C counties, approximately $1.2 million is available under Title II of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. These funds can be used to implement special restoration projects on Federal lands approved by resource advisory committees.

Additional information about the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act is available online at: https://www.blm.gov/programs/natural-resources/forests-and-woodlands/oc-lands