WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) today welcomed the announcement by the U.S. Forest Service that Alaskan communities will receive more than $14 million to support local schools and roads as part of the reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.
“In a perfect world, the Secure Rural Schools program wouldn’t be necessary,” Murkowski said.
“But our communities remain unable to utilize the national forests surrounding them to generate economic activity. For now, the Forest Service holds all the power in that regard as they control more than 22 million acres of national forest lands in Alaska – including just about all of Southeast.”
The Secure Rural Schools program requires the Forest Service to make payments to communities impacted by the severe decline in timber receipts from national forest lands. Communities that once had thriving timber industries now depend on the funds to pay for schools, emergency services and other local services.
The Forest Service indicated that 2014 SRS payments would arrive in state accounts for disbursement to local governments in the next few days. Alaska communities will receive $12.2 million in Title I payments and $2.1 million in Title II funding.
Murkowski said this year’s funding was expected to be announced in January or February, but “certainly this news qualifies as much better late than never.”
The funding for fiscal year 2014 was provided in the High Technology Jobs Preservation Act, a bill sponsored and shepherded through the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and the full Senate by Murkowski.
“Until we find a way to rightly return to a system where our federal forests are utilized to generate jobs and economic activity the way they once did, we owe these communities a lifeline,” Murkowski said.
Murkowski is the ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee, with oversight of the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, which are responsible for making these payments to local governments in Alaska.
A list of eligible Alaska communities and the amount of Secure Rural Schools funding each is expected to receive is available on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee website.