The Forest Service is an arm of the federal government. Logging is a form of agriculture. Forest health is important. The US Forest Service’s job is watching the forests. A skeptical feeling permeates communities and rumors circulate about logging practices. There are also many questions of exactly where the money goes and if money comes into the community.
The timber sales create revenue in various ways. Timber crews spend a lot of money in the community through food, lodging, gas, and groceries. Then the timber sale money generated goes into a general federal fund. Some of that money is paid out to the counties in the form of SRS (Secure Rural Schools) and PILT (Payment In Lieu of Taxes). For instance, Davey’s Bridge, the Crouch Bridge and Alder Creek Bridge were paid for by the Federal Government. Some of the county money is SRS money is from timber sales.
The government injects timber sale money back into the counties for roads and schools, too. People are thinking wrong when they say that the timber sales don’t generate any revenue for roads. Even though it is not directly coming from the timber sale to the county it is still coming around from federal funds.
In the past, timber sale net revenue of 25% from a sale would go to the schools in the county and the road department. The Government has not done that for over 15 years now. At one time the GV School got a check for over $400,000. This was after the big fire in Anderson Creek and Lowman. Many timber sales followed. Garden Valley School had the opportunity to go right across the street and buy the 40 acres of land with that money to build a new school their own sewer plant. The community did not have to do any of that purchase through a bond or a levy.
The counties had become dependent on that 25% from timber sales. This allowed schools to have more elective classes like home economics and shop that were funded out of that money. There used to be plenty of money to do all types of classes. Now they cannot afford those classes with strained funding.
When timber sales fell off and largely due to the spotted owl controversy, the federal government made a change to have money dispersed through SRS funds and PILT. In perspective, the cheapest assessment of private non-irrigated dry land in Boise County is about $33/acre. The Federal government gives about .40/acre of timber sale. In Boise County there is about 883 thousand acres of federal land. Last year the PILT payment was over $359,000 according to the Boise County Treasurer’s office information.
Since they do not pay the 25% but pay “in lieu “, this is just an offset of loss of timber sale money. This comes on the heels of the Reagan administration and into the Clinton administration, when the timber sales really fell off.
The Banks-Lowman Rd. and the Middlefork Road are actually forest service access roads. The federal government has agreements with counties and states to maintain these roads. They give money for the bridges and chip sealing. There are many forest improvement projects in the county from Resource Advisory Committee (RAC) grants. Through these agreements that come from the USDA/Forest Service, the county the roads are maintained. Chip sealing will be done on the Centerville-Placerville Road. The recent pavement laid down on a section of the Middlefork Rd. was from the SRS funds.
The SRS fund is shrinking by 15% each year so schools are getting less money. The federal government is trying to wean the county off of SRS funding. The Federal Legislature has to write the bill and pass it. The President signs the bill before there are more SRS funds available. Schools keep getting funded but that one year they will get caught without having it available.
The money allotted for the road department has to be spent on the roads, including equipment, maintenance and personnel. Some people have been questioning the Boise County Road Dept. buying three new road graders and felt the money should be for the general county fund instead. But the SRS and PILT money is required to be used for the Road Department.
Alan Ward, BC Board of Commissioner Chairman says, “We don’t have a highway district here. We are not taxing people’s properties to maintain these roads. There is a rare occasion, depending where the road budget is, that maintenance can come from property tax but it is miniscule. The money to maintain county roads is coming from the federal government. If the SRS and PILT money dries up, then the road cannot be maintained without forming a Highway District.” That would have to be voted on.