Almost $200,000 was allocated to projects for the Six Rivers National Forest in Del Norte County by the Del Norte Resource Advisory Committee this week.
Since much of the funding for projects the RAC approved in 2012 was taken away by the federal sequestration measures, this year the RAC decided to fully fund those projects and split the $10,000 left over between roads and trail projects.
“The RAC was very pragmatic in their choices. There was a sense of problem-solving among the group; let’s get this work done and let’s not send any money back,” said Clarke Moore, chairman of the Del Norte RAC.
The RAC is a committee of volunteers, representing varied interests across the community, which advises the Six Rivers National Forest about the use of Secure Rural Schools Title II funds. The committee was formed to encourage cooperation between the Forest Service and local communities about projects that provide mutual benefits to forest resources and communities.
The project recommended to receive the most funding, $69,764, is the completion of the Coast-to-Crest Trail, which the group considers to be its legacy project.
The Coast-to-Crest Trail will link the California Coastal Trail in Crescent City with the Siskiyou Crest in the Siskiyou Wilderness. The majority of the trail follows the historic Kelsey Trail that was used in the 19th century to connect Crescent City Harbor with gold mining operated near Fort Jones. Planners hope that ultimately the trail will connect with the Pacific Crest Trail, being a world-class cross-country trail.
The second largest amount of funding recommended was $58,197 for road improvements on Low Divide Road.
Almost $22,000 was recommended for Watershed and Resource Protection, $20,000 was recommended for stewardship, education and field trips on the Smith River National Recreation Area, and almost $15,000 was recommended for improvements to Siskiyou Wilderness Trails.
Almost $30 million will be disbursed across the country for projects to be decided by local RACs as part of Congress’ re-authorization of funding for the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.
The Secure Rural Schools Act was passed in 2000 to provide stabilized payments to states that have counties that have historically relied on revenue from timber sales on public lands through 2006. Reauthorizations of funding have kept the program going intermittently since then, including a one-year reauthorization in late 2013.
“This support is part of the Obama administration’s long-standing commitment to rural communities, schools, and American youth,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement. “The Forest Service’s century-long support of America’s public schools and roads is one of many ways in which USDA contributes to rural communities becoming self-sustaining and prosperous.”
In addition to the $30 million for RAC-chosen projects, there is an additional $270 million in Secure Rural Schools funding distributed to participating states that can be used for a variety of road- and school-related projects, including $32.7 million for California.
“Since 1908, the Forest Service has shared with states 25 percent of gross receipts from timber sales, grazing, minerals, recreation, and other land use fees on national forests to benefit public schools and public roads in the counties in which the forests are situated,” according to a Forest Service statement.