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Feds distribute timber payments for rural counties

Mitch Lies, Capital Press 1/15/09

Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer on Thursday, Jan. 15, announced the U.S. Forest Service is distributing more than $477 million to 41 states and Puerto Rico as part of the reauthorized federal timber payments.

The money is earmarked for improvements to public schools, roads and stewardship projects.

Oregon is receiving slightly more than $133 million, the highest payment awarded in this round. California is receiving more than $57 million. Idaho and Washington are getting upwards of $37 million each.

Congress last fall reauthorized the Secure Rural Schools and Self Determination Act for four years. The original act expired in 2007 and was extended for one year.

Since 1908, 25 percent of Forest Service revenues, including revenues from timber sales, mineral resources and grazing fees, have been returned to states with national forests.

In recent years, those revenues have declined significantly, triggering Congress in 2000 to enact legislation to assist rural counties through the federal timber payments.

Thirty-three Oregon counties are in line for the payments. Lane County, which is in line for $28.3 million, is receiving the highest payment, followed by Douglas County at $18.7 million, Klamath County at $13.3 million and Linn County at $9.4 million.

Payments are based on the percentage of national lands in each county and historical levels of timber harvest.

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