(U.S. Senate)—Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines are pushing the U.S. Forest Service to expedite Secure Rural Schools (SRS) payments to rural Montana counties.
In a letter to Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, Tester and Daines demanded the Forest Service distribute SRS payments to rural counties as quickly as possible.
“For rural America to thrive, communities must be able to maintain quality schools, protect public safety, and invest in roads and bridges,” Tester and Daines wrote. “As we work to improve economic opportunities in our forested counties through responsible timber harvest, increased tourism and outdoor recreation, the Secure Rural Schools program provides necessary support to county budgets.”
Montana counties have been operating under financial uncertainty since SRS payments were not reauthorized after 2013. The two year SRS extension that passed Congress earlier this month allows Montana counties to receive retroactive SRS payments for Fiscal Year 2014.
SRS was enacted in 2000 to provide payments to support local schools and roads in more than 30 Montana counties. The program helps compensate counties with federal land that have seen declining timber production.