Interior Announces $28.4 Million in Payments to Western Oregon Counties

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt announced today the issuance of more than $28 million to 18 counties in western Oregon as a part of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act extension. The funding will go directly to the counties, supporting investments in education, infrastructure, public safety, health services and other critical expenditures made by these jurisdictions.

“We have a multiple-use and sustained yield mandate to manage public lands for the benefit of the American people,” said Secretary Bernhardt. “The Trump Administration is committed to increasing timber production to support economic growth and forest health. This program is one way we are being a good neighbor and supporting Western communities.”

“The Bureau of Land Management administers the Secure Rural Schools Program along with the U.S. Forest Service, and our two agencies manage most of the federal lands in western Oregon. We’re committed to supporting local communities in these 18 counties through this vital program, and by facilitating sustainable development of timber and other natural resources from public lands,” said William Perry Pendley, BLM Deputy Director for Policy and Programs.?

The Bureau of Land Management manages the SRS program in Oregon and California Railroad Revested Lands, known as the O&C Lands, in concert with the U.S. Forest Service. The O&C Lands lie in a checkerboard pattern through 18 counties of western Oregon. These lands contain more than 2.4 million acres of forests with a diversity of plant and animal species, recreation areas, mining claims, grazing lands, cultural and historical resources, scenic areas, wild and scenic rivers and wilderness. SRS payments are made to over 700 counties across the United States, including the 18 counties containing O&C Lands, according to a formula set by Congress.

“Having helped create the Secure Rural Schools program about two decades ago, and having led the House effort to fund it over the last several sessions of Congress, I’m glad it continues to provide help to our rural counties and our public schools,” said U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (OR-02). “I’ve worked closely with House Leadership and the Trump Administration to ensure that this program is fully funded. Getting these payments out the door is especially important during this pandemic. While this funding is needed, what we really need is to reform forest management policies, so we can reduce the size and severity of wildfires and produce good paying jobs and tax revenues in our forest counties. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in Congress and the Trump Administration to achieve that goal.”

“Receipt of the SRS 2019 payment to the O&C and Coos Bay Wagon Road Counties is very welcome funding for counties struggling financially with the COVID-19 national emergency”, said Douglas County Oregon Commissioner Tim Freeman. “The SRS payment also highlights the need for predictable local government funding. The Executive Director of the Association of O&C Counties, Rocky McVay, thanks Christine Jeames at the BLM National Operation Center in Denver for the quick turnaround on transferring the SRS 2019 payment to the eligible counties.”

The O&C Lands Act and Coos Bay Wagon Road CBWR Act require 50% of receipts collected from the sale of timber on O&C lands to be distributed among 18 counties in western Oregon. The payments follow a formula established by these laws, both of which authorize timber receipt-based payments to western Oregon counties, and both of which remain in effect following the expiration of the SRS and Community Self-Determination Act.