Members of Congress from timber country came through Friday with a promised one-year extension of federal payments to rural counties dominated by federal lands in Idaho and other states.
They are now turning their attention to the tougher problem of how to generate a steady stream of federal revenue for rural counties that were rolling in cash during the logging booms of the 1970s, but have fallen on hard times since protections for fish and wildlife in danger of extinction forced sharp cutbacks on logging on national forests in the 1990s.
While voting to approve a compromise version of a national transportation bill, Congress also authorized the one-time distribution of $346 million to 700 rural counties in 41 states. Oregon gets $100 million, California $39.3 million, Idaho $27.4 million, Washington $21.3 million, and Montana $20.4 million.
A 31 percent reduction from funding levels in 2010, the money is the last anyone expects to see from the Secure Rural Schools Act, which since 2000 has provided $3 billion to rural counties to make up for their declining shares of federal logging revenues.
Oregon U.S. Rep. Greg Walden called the funding “a lifeline, but not a solution.”
The issue stems from the longstanding practice of the federal government sharing a portion of the money made from cutting timber to the counties where the timber is located. (AP)