|PUSH FOR STATE AUTHORITY|
CHANGE OF MANAGEMENT? 4-24-12 LMS
The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act of 2000 was legislation crafted for the purpose of helping counties containing vast amounts of non taxable federal land to replace lost timber harvest revenues and supplement very limited tax bases.
The bill directs large portions of money towards local schools and roads.
The most recent funding for the bill expired at the end of September 2011 and if the legislation is not re-funded, fiscal year 2012 will see the last of the monies allocated in 2011.
The Idaho congressional delegation is working to find ways to move forward with getting the bill reauthorized. Senator Crapo says since it was never permanently authorized it is an ongoing challenge to find ways of re-funding it. He said, “We have been very close on a number of occasions to getting that put together but it hasn’t been done yet. The best I can tell you is at this point I remain confident that it will and we are going to move forward and continue pushing until that’s achieved.”
In a seemingly related issue, the states of Arizona and Utah have passed legislation that demands the return of federally owned land within their boundaries to state ownership. Other western states considering similar moves include Colorado, New Mexico and Idaho.
Idaho Senator Mike Crapo thinks there may be merit to some of the proposals and said he is working hard to get some sort of trial program worked into the Secure Rural Schools legislation. He said, “I don’t think that the outright sale of the land or release of the land in terms of title to the land back to the states has much of a chance in this congress simply because of the political make up of the congress. However; the proposal that is being made by some in Idaho is that the state, and/or counties where they have such high levels of land ownership…federal land ownership, be authorized to manage the federal land on behalf of the federal government and that the revenues from that could then be utilized for the Secure Rural Schools program or other programs.”
Crapo said the proposal is very clear, whether the managing entity be the state or the counties, that the lands would be managed in compliance with all federal laws and that all of the necessary environmental targets and mandates would be achieved.
He said that of course not everyone favors the idea. “There has been a strong opposition for years against allowing the states to have more control over the management of these lands but, I believe there is an opportunity now for this issue to be raised again even if it’s on a pilot program basis, to see if we can’t find a way to achieve the same level of management of the federal lands but to do so in a way that will actually generate necessary revenue that the counties lack because of the impact of federal ownership on their tax bases.”
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