Drop In Secure Rural Schools Dollars Hurt Rural Areas

Navajo County Supervisor of District IV (Show Low, Taylor, Linden, Pinedale, Clay Springs and Heber Overgaard) and resident of Heber Overgaard, David Tenney, traveled to Washington, D.C. July 14 and 15 to speak before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

Navajo County Supervisor of District IV (Show Low, Taylor, Linden, Pinedale, Clay Springs and Heber Overgaard) and resident of Heber Overgaard, David Tenney, traveled to Washington, D.C. July 14 and 15 to speak before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

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The cycle of warm days and occasional chance of noon or afternoon rain showers continues. An appreciable amount of rain has accumulated in some areas around Heber Overgaard over the last week.

This weekend the highs will reach into the low 80s with the lows in the upper 50s and a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms.

Talking to Congress

Navajo County Supervisor of District IV (Show Low, Taylor, Linden, Pinedale, Clay Springs and Heber Overgaard) and resident of Heber Overgaard, David Tenney, traveled to Washington, D.C. July 14 and 15 to speak before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands.

Tenney and a small group of other experts were invited to provide their insight at a hearing entitled Secure Rural Schools Reauthorization and Forest Management Options for a Viable County Payments Program.

Those who testified had backgrounds in forest industry, education, county and federal government, and provided the subcommittee with their opinions on the best ways to deal with the funding of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act.

Counties and schools have received a 25 percent share of timber receipts from the federal government since the Teddy Roosevelt administration.

Until the 1990s, these payments were reliable and counties and schools were able to sustain their budgets despite the large swaths of tax-exempt federal land in their jurisdiction.

However, as timber receipts declined after the Timber Wars of the ’80s, the solvency of rural counties and schools across the nation also felt the pinch.

Secure Rural Schools Act

To address this challenge, Congress passed the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act in 2000, which provided payments to counties and schools to make up for the decline in timber sale revenue. Failure to reauthorize the Secure Rural Schools Act would mean that federal payments to Arizona counties would drop from $73 million in the last four years, to barely $1 million in 2012.

That is a steep drop which could jeopardize some important education and public safety programs in Arizona’s counties. For example, Coconino County would lose nearly 80 percent of its search and rescue funding — a critical service for a county known as a recreation and hunting destination.

Harsh criticism of Forest Service

Discussion by the committee included some very harsh criticism of the Forest Service by members of the House, and several portions of the discussion firmly established the frustration that legislators feel with the National Environmental Policy Act or NEPA, particularly the costs and time associated with the studies that are required by the act before harvesting of timber can take place on federal land.

The Rim Country Senior Center is having a “Roast Beef Dinner with Thrift Shop Fashion Show” Saturday, July 23 at 5 p.m. at the senior center. Tickets are on sale at the The Rim Country Senior Center for $9. Also, volunteers are needed for this event. Please call (928) 535-5525 for more information.

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