Del Norte County will lose critical federal funding to keep our schools open and roads paved unless the federal government reauthorizes its decades-long commitment to communities with federal forest land.
The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act may be little known, but it is a key fixture in our county's ability to provide the most basic services to those that work and live in our area. You can get involved now by contacting Congress and urging it to support this vital program for America's rural communities.
When the federal government created the national forest systems in the early 20th century, millions of acres of forested land were brought into federal ownership. While there were conservation benefits to this historic act, communities like our own must grapple with more limited economic development opportunities. We can't build houses or businesses in the national forest.
Recognizing its obligation to rural communities, the federal
government created a revenue-sharing plan to offset the loss of economic
activity in forested areas. The funds are used for the benefit of
public schools and the upkeep of public roads.
However, the dramatic decline in timber harvesting and other forest
activities in the late-1990s dramatically reduced this funding and
caused Congress to step in and pass legislation to continue fulfilling
the federal commitment by passing the Secure Rural Schools Act.
This longstanding federal-local partnership has helped provide vital
funding for schools, roads, search and rescue, and other county needs -
roughly $2,757,303 for Del Norte County. Our county contains nearly
500,000 acres of federal forests, and we are struggling to maintain
basic services, especially in light of our 14.5 percent unemployment
rate. Our community cannot afford to let the Secure Rural Schools Act
Unless Congress takes action, the Secure Rural Schools Act will
expire in September. The loss of this funding will have an immediate
impact on our community. Some schools will lose important education
programs and beloved teachers, while others may even be forced to close.
The cut would also mean that roads will go unpaved, and potholes will
not be patched this winter. Reduced road repairs could impact the
public safety of our residents and out-of-area visitors alike.
California's forest counties are on the brink of losing nearly $70
million every year. Del Norte County stands to lose more than $2.5
million in funds designated for local schools and road maintenance.
The vast majority of these funds provided through the Secure Rural
Schools Act are used to directly fund jobs in road maintenance and
public works and positions within the public school system.
These are essential services for the citizens of this county and
constitute family-wage jobs. Jeff Daniels, county roads superintendent
for Del Norte County, has indicated that without the reauthorization of
SRSCA, that 50 percent of the employees in the County Road department
may be subject layoffs. Del Norte County cannot afford any further hits
to our local job market.
We need your help to save this program. The Del Norte County Board of
Supervisors has been working tirelessly with our congressional
delegation for many months to find a way to continue this important
funding. We need you to join the fight and Congress needs to hear from
Please call U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson and senators Dianne Feinstein and
Barbara Boxer at (202) 224-3121 and tell them to reauthorize the Secure
Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act before it's too
You can also join the national campaign to save the act by going to
partnershipforruralamerica.org and follow the campaign on Facebook and
During these tough economic times, Congress should not leave
America's rural communities behind.
David Finigan represents District 5 on the Del Norte County Board
of Supervisors. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the
National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition. He can be reached at