2007 Regular Session
By: Representative Reynolds
A RESOLUTION URGING THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS TO FULLY FUND THE SECURE RURAL SCHOOLS AND COMMUNITY SELF-DETERMINATION REAUTHORIZATION ACT.
WHEREAS, in 1908, in response to the mounting opposition to the creation of the National Forest System in the West, Congress passed a bill which created a revenue sharing mechanism to offset the effects of removing these lands from economic development, specifying that 25% of all revenues generated from the multiple-use management of the National Forests would be shared with the counties to support public roads and public schools; and
WHEREAS, from 1908 until 1986, the revenue sharing mechanism worked extremely well, before a decline in multiple-use management of National Forests occurred, constituting an 85% decrease among counties in actual revenues generated; and
WHEREAS, this revenue crisis led county and school officials to form the National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition in 1998, in partnership with the National Association of Counties and other organizations, which in 2000 received congressional support with the passage of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (P.L. 106-393), addressing the needs of forest counties and focusing on the creation of a new cooperative partnership between citizens in forest counties and our federal land management agencies; and
WHEREAS, counties in Mississippi received a total of $8,457,066.00 last year under the act, $7,266,845.00 of which was expended under Title I for roads and schools, while $251,893.00 was expended on Title II projects and $938,328.00 was used for Title III projects; and
WHEREAS, in 2007, actual U.S. Forest Service receipts for the State of Mississippi are estimated to be only $2,264,004.00, a drastic reduction in funding for counties already reeling from the effects of the 2005 hurricane season, promising a devastating effect on the state's ability to provide road and bridge maintenance and new road construction; and
WHEREAS, the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act has:
Restored program finds for students in rural schools and prevented the closure of numerous insolated rural schools.
Allowed rural county road districts and county road departments to address the severe maintenance backlog resulting from decimated road budgets from 1986 to 1999.
Over 70 Resources Advisory Committees (RACs) have been formed under Title II, which have studied and approved over 2,500 projects on federal forestlands and adjacent public and private lands using funds that are approved by Forest County Boards of Commissioners, including projects related to: fuel reduction, habitat improvement, watershed restoration, road maintenance and rehabilitation, reforestation, campground and trail improvement and noxious weed eradication.
Title III projects on forest county lands are also authorized by the act and many counties have effectively invested in projects and programs such as: search and rescue, conservation easements, community wildfire protection planning and forest-related educational programs; and
WHEREAS, the loss of these critical funds could mean the end of meaningful and important subsidies and benefits that have helped sustain rural community programs throughout Mississippi:
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI, That we do hereby urge the United States Congress to fund a one-year extension of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act as an emergency appropriation, either finding appropriate offsets or protecting it from a budget point of order, and to develop a long-term solution before the end of fiscal year 2007.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, That copies of this resolution be furnished to the President of the United States Senate, the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, the members of the Mississippi congressional delegation and to the members of the Capitol Press Corps.