The following was sent to the Bloomingtonian Tuesday:
Forest Service supports Indiana counties through Secure Rural Schools and Payment In Lieu of Taxes Programs
Bedford, IN – (September 5, 2023) The USDA Forest Service has determined its 2022 annual payments to counties in which National Forest System Lands occur. In Indiana, the Hoosier National Forest administers land in nine counties, including Monroe, Brown, Jackson, Lawrence, Orange, Martin, Dubois, Crawford and Perry, all of which will receive funding through the agency’s Secure Rural Schools Program (SRS). The program was reauthorized for fiscal years 2021 through 2023 by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. These Indiana counties will receive a total of $230,545, while nationally, $228 million will be paid to 742 eligible counties in 41 states and Puerto Rico to support public schools, roads and other municipal services.
“The Secure Rural Schools program is one of many ways the Forest Service provides continuous support to communities across the country,” said Forest Service Chief Randy Moore. “Not only do these dollars provide funding for schools and roads, but the program also reimburses counties for providing emergency services on national forests and supports the development of community wildfire protection plans, all critical programs designed to improve the quality of life in these communities.”
In addition to the SRS program payments, the Forest Service will distribute a total of $512,927 to the nine Indiana counties for Payments In Lieu of Taxes (PILT) for 2023. PILT payments help local governments carry out such vital services as firefighting and police protection, construction of public schools and roads, and search-and-rescue operations. To date, including the fiscal year (FY) 2023 payments, nearly $11.4 billion in payments have been made to local governments. PILT payments may be used by local jurisdictions for any governmental purpose.
For payment information by county for these programs, visit Secure Rural Schools – Payments | US Forest Service or Payment in Lieu of Taxes (doi.gov).
In the years after the Forest Service was established in 1905, the national forest system tripled in size, growing from 56 million in 1905 to 172 million acres in 1908. To compensate counties for potential losses of tax revenue from this early growth, Congress ratified the Act of May 23, 1908. The Act allowed the Forest Service to distribute a portion of agency revenues from timber sales, mineral leases, recreation, grazing and other sources to those states and counties containing national forests and grasslands.
Over time, agency revenues from these activities have declined through shifts in policy to manage national forests for multiple uses, including recreational and environmental considerations. In response, Congress passed the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 to help stabilize fiscal support for rural county services. In 2021, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law reauthorized Secure Rural Schools payments through fiscal year 2023.
Each state’s Secure Rural School payment amount is determined by various factors established in the law, including the number of counties that elect to share in a state’s payment. Payments to states are distributed after the Forest Service collects revenue to accommodate those counties electing to continue participation in revenue sharing rather than the Secure Rural School payment.