Coastal Voices: Basic services at risk


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

you now.

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 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

(707) 954-0232.

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Monday October 24, 2016

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