Senator Seeks Continued Program Funding and Forest Management Reforms
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, recently sent a letter to President Trump urging him to include mandatory funding for the Secure Rural School (SRS) program in his upcoming budget request for Fiscal Year 2018. Murkowski also signed a similar letter in support of SRS to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Mick Mulvaney.
“In my home state of Alaska, the Forest Service controls approximately 22 million acres of land, including 17 million acres in the Southeast region,” Murkowski said. “With the Forest Service failing to responsibly manage our forests, timber harvests have declined and many communities have been left with inadequate funding for schools, forcing them to depend on SRS. We must ensure this program is reauthorized as mandatory spending while we work to prioritize management reforms to increase timber harvests to sustainable levels to generate revenue and jobs.”
Enacted in 2000, the SRS program was designed as a bridge to provide temporary relief for timber dependent communities while communities transitioned their economies.in partnership with the federal government. However, the federal government’s failure to responsibly manage national forests to support jobs and economic activity has led to communities becoming more and more reliant on the program.
In 2014, SRS payments accounted for up to 20 percent of the school budget in some boroughs in Alaska, including many that are almost entirely composed of Forest Service lands. Since then, the state’s budget has declined significantly and harvest levels have continued to decline in the Tongass National Forest. These conditions have added to the importance of adequate, mandatory funding for the SRS program in the near-term.Murkowski, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, has long supported the responsible management of national forests. She continues to work with her colleagues on a bipartisan solution to make our federal forests work again for the communities that depend on them.