Deep Background

Let’s start on October 30, 2000, the day President Clinton signed Public Law 106-393 titled the “Secure Rural School and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000.” The law also is known by the common term “Payments to States.” In Idaho the legislation carries the moniker “Craig-Wyden” to reflect the key role played by Idaho Senator Larry Craig in this legislation.

The Act addresses the decline in revenue from timber harvest in recent years received on Federal land, which have historically been shared with counties. These funds have been used for schools and roads.  The purpose of the Act was to stabilize payments to counties (for the roads and schools) for a six year period. 

Payments were made to states beginning after Fiscal Year 2001 through 2006.

The law also did something innovative by providing a mechanism to promote projects that enhance forest ecosystem health and provide employment opportunities, and to improve cooperative relationships among Federal land management agencies and those who use and care about the lands the agencies manage.

The legislation expired after the 2006 payment, but then one additional year of payment was added for FY 2007.  Eventually on October 3, 2008, the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 was reauthorized as part of Public Law 110-343.

If you really want to know the background on why and how RACs came to exist it’s best to look back on the legislative history of P.L. 106-393.  You can start with a directory page on the Thomas.loc.gov website. This directory includes links to committee reports and floor debate in the Congressional Record.

A more revealing approach to the legislative history and intent is found through what is posted on the internet by various interest groups. The National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition (NFCFC), the primary groups involved in supporting the legislation, includes a reference to the floor remarks of U.S. Rep. Larry Combest (R-CA), which shows one interpretation of the act and how it will be implemented.

On the other side of the debate were some interest groups concerned with or opposed to the legislation. The Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics website has a page detailing the history of P.L. 106-393 and FSEEE’s perspective on their role in the legislation.

Implementation of P.L. 106-393 and its successor P.L. 106-343 is also a topic of interest. The Forest Service has issued general implementation directives, guidelines and the like on its national website. In past years there have been some evaluations of the law’s implementation.  One good source is the study by the Sierra Institute that was released in 2006.  An earlier, pioneering study was issued by Boise State University (1.1 MB pdf) in 2003.

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