Resource Advisory Committees (RACs)

Updated: April 3, 2017

Secure Rural Schools Act resource advisory committees

What is a Secure Rural Schools Act resource advisory committee?

A Secure Rural Schools Resource Act Advisory Committee (RAC) provides recommendations to the Forest Service on the development and implementation of special projects on federal lands as most recently reauthorized under the Secure Rural Schools Act and Community Self-Determination Act in Public Law 114-10.   Each RAC consists of 15 people representing varied interests and areas of expertise, who work collaboratively to improve working relationships among community members and national forest personnel.

Under title II of the Act the Secretary of Agriculture may establish a Secure Rural Schools resource advisory committee for part of a national forest or for one or more national forests to ensure that each national forest on which special projects are proposed has access to a RAC.

Secure Rural Schools RACs were first established under the “Secure Rural School and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-393). Authorization for those committees expired September 30, 2006.  In 2007 the Act was extended for one year in Public Law 110-28.

In October 2008 the Act was amended and reauthorized for four years, federal fiscal years 2008-2011, again in 2012 and 2013 under P.L.110-343, and for 2014 and 2015 under P.L. 114-10.  Secure Rural Schools Act RACs will continue to function through September 31, 2017 under the most recent reauthorization.

Composition of the committee

Each RAC shall have 15 members with balanced and broad representation of interests in 3 categories, 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.
 

Members shall reside within the State(s) in which the committee has jurisdiction and, to the extent practicable, provide local representation in each category.

Duties of the committee

Generally, the committee’s role is to review and recommend projects and funding to the Forest Supervisor. The Forest Supervisor is responsible for considering the committee’s recommendations in the context of the forest land management plan and the laws and regulations that govern Forest Service activities and to approve the project if appropriate. The committee’s duties are to:

  • review projects proposed under title II by participating counties, tribal governments, organizations and individuals;
  • make recommendations to the Forest Supervisor acting for the Secretary of Agriculture about projects and funding in accordance with section 203 of the Act;
  • provide early and continuous coordination with appropriate land management agency officials in recommending projects consistent with purposes of this Act under title II;
  • provide frequent opportunities for citizens, organizations, tribes, land management agencies, and other interested parties to participate openly and meaningfully, beginning at the early stages of the project development process under title II;
  • monitor projects that have been approved by the Forest Supervisor; and advise the designated Federal official on the progress of the monitoring; and,
  • make recommendations to the Forest Supervisor for any appropriate changes or adjustments to the projects being monitored by the resource advisory committee.

Operations of the committee

A simple majority of the committee members is a quorum for holding a meeting and reaching agreement on operating guidelines.  Agreement of a majority of the members in each of the 3 categories is required to recommend a project. Each meeting shall be convened and conducted in accordance with the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) and USDA Departmental Regulations (DR1041-001.)  FACA rules require the designated Federal official (DFO) to publish notice of a meeting in Federal Register at least 15 days in advance. The Secure Rural Schools Act requires announcement of a committee meeting at least one week in advance in a local newspaper of record. Meetings are open to the public and the designated Federal official is responsible for keeping minutes and other records related to the meetings.  The designated Federal official is an employee of the Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Mangement.

Official Form For RAC Background Check AD-755

RAC charters

A resource advisory committee may advise more than one national forest and may review and recommend projects in more than one county.  Forest Service officials conferred with county officials and stakeholders before providing advice to the Secretary about appropriate geographic and administrative jurisdictions.  Considerations for determining the geographic scope of committee activities include the Forest Service’s capacity to support the committee operations and related efficiencies as well as fostering collaboration within and among communities.

The 2008 reauthorization authorized the Secretary of Agriculture to renew the charters and appointments of individual members of resource advisory committees (RACs) established prior to September 29, 2006. Fifty-five committees that had been established prior to and were active on this date were reactivated by the Secretary in a decision memo of October 20, 2008.

By October 2009 the Secretary approved charters for the 55 existing committees and 63 additional committees.   There was one charter for all the committees in  one for each Forest Service region, or nine charters for 118 Secure Rural Schools resource advisory committees nationally.  Under FACA regulations, the charters expire or must be renewed after two years, in October 2011.

The 2009 charters may be viewed at the following links:  Alaska Region,  Eastern Region, Intermountain Region, Northern Region, Pacific Northwest Region, Pacific Southwest Region, Rocky Mountain Region, Southern Region and Southwestern Region. An amended Eastern Region charter was approved in September 2010.

In anticipation of the charters expiring the Forest Service submitted a charter renewal package for review and approval.  During the review Department of Agriculture staff requested census data on the gender, race, ethnicity and disability status of the population in counties in which the committees have jurisdiction to recommend projects and requested similar information about current or prospective committee members.  In May 2012 the Department provided the Forest Service a revised form AD-755, ADVISORY COMMITTEE OR RESEARCH AND PROMOTION BACKGROUND INFORMATION on which a resource advisory committee member or a nominee to become a member may voluntarily disclose information about gender, race and ethnicity.

In a June 7, 2012 decision memo the Secretary reestablished the Secure Rural Schools Act resource advisory committees by approving the charter, the addendum listing the committees and a membership balance plan.

The Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act was reauthorized on July 6, 2012 (Public Law 112-141).  In a July 25, 2012 decision memo, the Secretary of Agriculture deemed the existing resource advisory committees authorized under PL 110-343 to be committees for the purposes of title II in the reauthorized Act (PL 112-141) and approved the current charter and the members in good standing for the purposes of the reauthorized Act.

The most recent Secure Rural Schools charter was approved by the Secretary of Agricuture on June 21, 2016 under the authority of P.L. 114-10.