Advisory Committees

Secure Rural Schools Act

Secure Rural Schools Act Reauthorized

Congress passed 2018 spending bill P.L. 115-141 that included reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools program. 

Payment reports for  FY18 are now available by clicking here.

Resource Advisory Committees

The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is seeking applications to fill multiple positions on a federal Resource Advisory Committee to recommend natural resource improvement projects on the national forest funded by the Secure Rural Schools Act.

Becoming a RAC member is an excellent way to take an active role in how the National Forest is managed. The role of the RAC is to recommend how Title II funds of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act will be spent in the counties that allocated funds to Title II.

Historically, the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest has had two RAC committees – one serving the Chequamegon land base (west side) the other for the Nicole land base (east side). The Forest has been approved to merge the Chequamegon RAC and Nicolet RAC into the Northern Wisconsin Secure Rural Schools RAC. Combining the two RACs creates administrative efficiencies for the Forest Service and also reduces the amount of public participation required for the RACs from 30 members for the two to 15 for just one; there are also alternates for each category above and beyond the required number of members.

The Forest has also submitted a request for a waiver to reduce the number of members required for the combined RAC from 15 to nine members. If the waiver is approved, it reduces the number of members needed to be present for a meeting quorum to review and approve projects.

With the approval of the merger, we are proceeding with recruitment of committee members to be vetted by the secretary and approved so the RAC can meet and recommend projects for SRS funds. Under P.L. 115-141, all project funds must be obligated by September 30, 2021.

Examples of projects that funds can be used for include, but are not limited to: road, trail, and infrastructure maintenance or obliteration; soil productivity improvements; improvements in forest ecosystem health; watershed restoration and maintenance; restoration, maintenance, and improvement of wildlife and fish habitat; control of noxious and exotic weeds; hazardous fuels reduction; and reintroduction of native species. 

Projects must be on national forest lands, but can occur on adjacent public or private land if it can be demonstrated that there is a direct benefit to public land resources.

Resource Advisory Committees are responsible for reviewing and recommending projects for implementation under Title II of the Secure Rural Schools Act.  By law, the four-year term, fifteen-member committee is composed of a wide representation of national forest interests.

Committee members are needed for three different categories representing interest groups, specified in Section 205 (d)(2) of the Act:

A) 5 persons that--

(i) represent organized labor or non-timber forest product harvester groups;

(ii) represent developed outdoor recreation, off highway vehicle users, or commercial recreation activities;

(iii) represent energy and mineral development interests; or commercial or recreational fishing interests;

(iv) represent the commercial timber industry; or

(v) hold Federal grazing or other land use permits, or represent nonindustrial private forest land owners, within the area for which the committee is organized.

B) 5 persons that represent--

(i) nationally recognized environmental organizations;

(ii) regionally or locally recognized environmental organizations;

(iii) dispersed recreational activities;

(iv) archaeological and historical interests; or

(v) nationally or regionally recognized wild horse and burro interest groups, wildlife or hunting organizations, or watershed associations.

(C) 5 persons that--

(i) hold State elected office (or a designee);

(ii) hold county or local elected office;

(iii) represent American Indian tribes within or adjacent to the area for which the committee is organized;

(iv) are school officials or teachers; or

(v) represent the affected public at large.
 

Any Wisconsin resident interested in serving must complete the Advisory Committee Membership Interest form and the Research and Promotion Background Information Form (AD-755) and return them to the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest no later than December 20, 2019. 

Please click the links below to access each of the forms. 

Please complete these forms and mail them to: RAC Coordinator, Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, 500 Hanson Lake Road, Rhinelander, WI 54501.

A committee will review the applications and forward candidates in each category to the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture for final selection. Applicants are subject to a background investigation.

If you have questions about the Forest’s RAC and questions please contact Penny McLaughlin at 715-362-1322 or penny.mclaughlin@usda.gov.

Background

Since 1908, the Forest Service has shared with states 25 percent of gross receipts from timber sales, grazing, minerals, recreation, and other land use fees on national forests to benefit public schools and public roads in the counties in which the forests are situated.
 
In the late 1980s, due largely to declines in timber sale receipts, payments began to fluctuate and drop significantly.  In 1994, Congress provided "safety net payments" to counties in northern California, western Oregon and western Washington.

In 2000, Congress enacted the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 (P.L. 106-393) (i.e.,Secure Rural Schools Act). The SRS Act had three principal titles. 

•    Title I – Secure Payments for States and Counties Containing Federal Land

The SRS Act directed that the majority of the payments to States be used to help fund county schools and roads. This portion of the payment is commonly referred to as the title I payment and has averaged about 85 percent of the total payments to date.

•    Title II – Special Projects on Federal Land 

Under SRS Act authorizations prior to P.L. 114-10, eligible counties had the option to allocate part of their share of the State Payment to SRS Title II for projects that maintain existing infrastructure or enhance the health of ecosystems on national forests, while supporting local economies. Title II provided for the establishment of resource advisory committees (RACs) to review and recommend projects to forest supervisors. The Secure Rural Schools Act as reauthorized added to the duties of the committees and expanded the interests represented by members. 

•    Title III – County Funds

Funds allocated by a county under title III may be used on county projects. When the Secure Rural Schools Act was reauthorized in 2012, Congress limited the use of title III funds to three authorized uses: activities under the Firewise Communities program, reimbursement for emergency services on national forests, and preparation of a community wildfire protection plan.

Since the original act of 2000, there have been several reauthorizations that have changed the calculation and process for which counties can elect to receive the funding. 

For more information on Secure Rural Schools please visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/pts/home



https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/cnnf/workingtogether/advisorycommittees