Federal bill HR 4019 would form trust fund for timber counties

By Sen. Doug Whitsett (Distr. 28)
for the Independent

Last week Washington Congressman “Doc” Hastings introduced a bill in Congress that, if enacted, will make enormous strides toward restoring economic vitality and stability to Oregon’s rural communities. This federal bill would create a County, Schools and Revenue Trust Fund that would provide a perpetual dependable source of revenue for counties containing National Forest Land.

The purpose of the Trust would be to perpetually provide a dependable source of revenue for each beneficiary county containing National Forest System Land. The fund would be established with $875 million to help bridge the financial void left by the discontinuation of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act funding. The timber counties would receive the same payments in the 2012 fiscal year that they did in 2010. That payment would be reduced by 25% in 2013.

The Trust would continue to be funded by annual appropriations either equal to 60% of the average annual gross receipts from the National Forest System units located in each county between 1980 and 2000 or a minimum contribution equal to 50% of the average chargeable timber volume sold during the same 20 year period. Two thirds of that revenue would be distributed to the counties and one third to the General Fund for the benefit of the Forest Service. One percent of the Trust Fund contribution would be paid as an incentive to Forest Service employees who assist in exceeding minimum sales within a fiscal year.

Future funding for the Trust would come from earnings
derived from projects on National Forest System land. Those Trust projects may include a timber sale, issuance of a grazing permit, issuance of a special use permit involving land use, mineral development, power generation or recreational use and projects implementing a community wildfire protection plan.  Any project may be conducted in response to a catastrophic event. Projects would not be allowed on Wilderness or other lands where removal of vegetation is specifically prohibited by Federal law.

A strict timeline is developed for implementing the Trust projects. The Secretary of Agriculture will prepare an environmental report for each project within 30 days and the cost of that report will not be allowed to exceed one third of the estimated value of the receipts of the project. Administrative processes are to be the sole means of review of the Secretary’s decisions and subsequent judicial review is expressly prohibited.

Both Oregon and California Railroad grant lands and Coos Bay Wagon Road grant lands are included in the H.R. 4019 Trust funds projects by definition.

Enactment of this Federal Act would not only provide consistent
reliable funding to federal timber reliant counties but would also create
tens of thousands of direct natural resources related family wage jobs.
Additional indirect jobs created would be expected to exceed the direct
jobs created by the Trust projects.

This Act truly has the potential to restore our once vibrant rural
Communities. We should all make the concerted effort to both directly ask our Congressional delegation to support H.R. 4019 and also to thank Congressman Hastings for his great effort.

Please remember, if we do not stand up for rural Oregon no one will.

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