Gov. Bullock? Tell Tidwell to Take A Hike

by jhwygirl

Late last month, U.S. Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell sent letters out to the states asking for a return of (presumably) 10% of the Secure Rural Schools funds payed out in January of this year.

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead was pretty quick to criticize the fed’s move – and just in the last few hours Mead appears to have made up his mind: He won’t be returning the money.

I won’t go into the specifics on SRS funds, though that link gives a great rundown on what they are where they come from and all that good stuff. Basically, though, SRS funds come from the revenue generated on federal lands. It’s paid out proportionally to each state – and each county – based on the amount of revenue generated and the amount of land in each county. It’s also based on the previous years revenues.

So the payments made in January of this year were based on 2012 revenues.

Is this government welfare? I don’t think so. Here in Missoula County, 49% of the lands are federal, state or local govt. owned. None of that land is taxed, and yet the Sheriff’s Department, for example, is out there dealing with criminal activity on USFS roads.

For the state’s lands, Fish Wildlife and Parks is, by some weird law, required to recycle its funding from the legislature back to the local county by paying taxes. How that makes sense, I’ll never understand.

I assume that Montana Dept. of Revenue has already distributed those SRS funds. I also assume most counties have incorporated it into their budgets. In Lincoln County, it’s a pretty significant hit, with their share of the sequestration return equaling their road fund.

Which could lead me to the messed up way the state’s gas tax money is distributed, but it’s a little late now and I’ve probably already bored ya’all to tears.

All of that being said, I’ll be calling Bullock tomorrow to tell him to tell Tidwell to “take a hike” – and calling Baucus, Tester and Daines to suggest to them that they should reassess the government wanting what is essentially their 2012 calendar year tax payment to Montana refunded.

  1. Matthew Koehler

    Here’s some more specific information about the Secure Rural Schools Act of 2000. Not to split hairs here, but I’m pretty sure the way J-girl described how SRS funding currently works wasn’t entirely accurate.

    Since the SRS Act passed in 2000, funding no longer comes from the previous years revenues from things like timber sales on national forests, but instead funding was changed to be based on the average of the three highest “25% payments” made to each state from the years 1986 through 1999. As outlined in the SRS Act, this payment was adjusted each year to reflect changes in the consumer price index.

    When SRS passed in 2000 states/counties had the option to continue getting “25% payments” from timber sales, etc, but I don’t know of any state or county in the country that went for this later option, since the average of the 3 highest years payment between ’86 and ’99 was an incredibly stellar and generous deal for states/counties.

    Here’s some more info on SRS funding:


    Before the Secure Rural Schools Act was introduced in 2000, rural counties and schools received 25% of the revenues generated from timber sales from our national forests.

    This was destructive to the communities who depended on the forests for clean drinking water, long-term restoration and stewardship jobs, not to mention incredible and free outdoor experiences.

    Fortunately, Congress changed the funding system for counties and schools in 2000 with passage of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. The law replaced revenue sharing with a guaranteed level of payments that was no longer tied to the amount of timber produced from the National Forests.


    (Source: Link above titled, “the specifics on SRS funds”)

    Prior to July 1, 2001, 25% of these revenues were distributed by the U. S. Department of Agriculture to the State in which the National Forest was located under the Forest Reserve program (16 U.S.C. 500).

    Public Law 106-393, the “Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000” (“the Act”) was enacted to provide five years of transitional assistance to rural counties affected by the decline in revenue from timber harvests on federal lands. Under the Act, a “full payment amount” was calculated for each State by determining the average of the three highest “25% payments” made to the State from 1986 through 1999 under the Forest Reserve program. This “full payment amount” was adjusted each year to reflect changes in the consumer price index. The counties then had the option of continuing to receive the “25% payment”, or to receive the “full payment amount”.

    • Thanks Matt – appreciate your correction.

      I wonder what option the Montana counties took? Missoula?

      • Matthew Koehler

        Pretty positive that Missoula Co and every county in Montana took the average of the three highest payments. Maybe there was a ‘old-school’ county or two in Oregon that stuck with the old timber payments, but I doubt it.

  2. Crow

    To further your point, actually 85% of land in Missoula County is owned or controlled (ie, conservation easements) by a government entity. Much greater than 49%.

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