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National Forest Counties & Schools Coalition Winter Udpate

Posted Date: 
December 12, 2011
Bob Douglas, Executive Director, National Forest Counties & Schools Coalition

Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year from the Board of Directors and staff of the National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition.  At the NFCSC it has been a year of challenges both fiscally and legislatively, but we are still alive and moving forward with our mission.  We have much to be thankful for and much to look forward to in our collective future.

Update on the Partnership for Rural America Campaign - Reauthorization of SRSCA

As we approach the 2011 Christmas season and the dawn of 2012, progress appears to be being made in both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives.  And as you will recall we scored a major victory earlier in 2011 by being included in the Administrations budget proposal.

Senate Action

Since we last reported to you, the Campaign has been instrumental in working with Senator Ron Wyden and a bipartisan Senate team to draft S-1692 which provides for a five year extension of SRSCA at annually declining levels and PILT at full funding.  The funding for SRSCA contained in this bill is not what we had advocated for, but the bipartisan leadership team in the Senate insists that given the diminishing resources in the federal treasury, that this is their best offer.  The exact SRSCA funding in S-1692 begins in fiscal year 2011/2012 at $342 million a 5% drop from the 2010/2011 funding level, and then ramps down by 5% per year through 2016 , to $282 Million .  This reduction can be compared to the 2008 funding level of $500 Million.  Titles II and III remain the same as in the 2008-2011 bill.  Senate Leadership has  been very direct in indicating that this is the final reauthorization of SRSCA that they will consider.

We do not expect to see this legislation move as a stand-alone bill, given the current pre-election  climate in the Senate.  However, it is logical to expect that the language contained in S-1692 will be incorporated in a much larger, more comprehensive legislative package in early 2012, such as one of several tax packages Congress is expected to consider.  Stay closely tuned between now and April.

House of Representatives Action

As we write this update there are now two pieces of legislation being finalized in the House of Representatives that address the reauthorization of SRSCA.

The leadership of the House Natural Resources Committee (Chairman Doc Hastings R-WA) and the leadership of the House Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health (Chairman Rob Bishop R-UT) are in the final days of drafting a comprehensive forest management bill that includes an extension of SRSCA and proposes to revitalize the rural economic base by significantly increasing active management of non-wilderness federal forest lands on both U.S. Forest Service and BLM lands.  This bill in draft form provides  "bridge funding" to counties and schools (Title I only) while the U.S. Forest Service and BLM gear up for a significantly more active timber management program designed to both generate needed county and federal revenues and simultaneously address a serious backlog of forest health issues.  A hearing and mark-up of this bill in Committee is tentatively slated  following  the Christmas recess.  PFRA Campaign staff has been told that House Committee Leadership intends to move this bill out of Committee quickly and have it ready for future House floor action at the most opportune time.  Finally, the draft copy of the legislation shared with us over the last several weeks did not have a funding amount included, so at this point, leadership has not made a final decision regarding the amount and duration of the county and school funding to be included.  Likewise, a preliminary draft copy proposes no changes to Titles II or III or PILT. 

A second bill was introduced last week by Representative Martin Heinrich D-NM. This bill is a companion to the Senate bill sponsored by Senator, Jeff Bingaman, Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  This legislation, like the Senate version, proposes to extend the current SRSCA Act for 5 years at the same funding level specified in the Senate version and also contains a five year extension of PILT at 100% funding.  If and when a hearing may be scheduled on this bill is unknown at this time.

The End Game - January-March 2012

Needless to say, over the next three months we need both the Senate and the House to take action at the Committee levels for their respective approaches to reauthorization.  Then the leadership of both branches of Congress needs to negotiate a common bipartisan compromise.   So, while we have made progress, and the momentum is moving in the right direction - our concerted, well planned actions over the next several months will determine the fate of SRSCA reauthorization.

This bulletin was delayed for almost two weeks while we worked hard and explored every possibility to include SRSCA reauthorization in either the 2012 appropriations bill or the payroll tax cut extension legislation that was moving and in play this past week. We had high hopes for a Merry Christmas, but In the final analysis, SRSCA was not included in the appropriations package that passed Congress or the tax cut extension bill that bogged down and failed amid a partisan meltdown. 

When Congress returns in January, a bipartisan Southern focused “Dear Colleague Letter”   signed by Representatives Alan Nunnelee (R-MS), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Mike Ross (D-NC), and Heath Shuler (D-NC) will be circulated to Members of the House.  Obtaining as many signatures from SRSCA receiving members of Congress as possible will be our number one priority in January.  This is the first step in a full court press strategy to assist the leaders of the House Natural Resources Committee to move their Forest Health and Forest Jobs legislation out of committee and position it for floor action as soon as possible.

 We are confident that there will be opportunities for including SRSCA/PILT in large legislative packages in the next several months and we need to be ready to activate our historically effective grassroots efforts at the right time.  Stay Tuned!!!

NFCSC Board of Directors Extends PFRA Campaign

In November, the Executive Committee of the NFCSC met and analyzed the current legislative options and recommended to the NFCSC Board of Directors that they extend and fund the PFRA Campaign for an additional three months in order to maintain consistency during the legislative finalization process.  The Board significantly reduced (over $15,000 per month) campaign staff and other expenses and authorized extension of the campaign from January 2012 through March 2012.  Member counties and schools will be asked to contribute to this 3 month extension of the PFRA Campaign as a part of their NFCSC dues contribution for 2012.  The total cost for the 2012 PFRA Campaign is expected to be $ 75,375.  The NFCSC Board has pledges from ongoing statewide associations and forest coalitions to cover 80% of these expenses.  The other 20% will need to come from contributions from individual member counties and school districts.  Please give generously and immediately as the funding is needed now!

The National Forest Counties and Schools Coalition Trims Costs and Moves Forward to 2012

The staff, officers, and Board of Directors of the NFCSC sharpened their scalpels and drastically trimmed the staffing and overhead costs of the NFCSC for 2012.  The approved 2012 NFCSC budget will be $76,684 which represents a 32% reduction from the 2011 budget.     All staff will work ten hours or less per week.  Office space has been provided as an in-kind contribution, to the Coalition for 2012 by the Tehama County Department of Education, and travel has been reduced to a bare minimum.  Our goal is to reduce overhead costs and focus on completing the SRSCA reauthorization and the restoration of sustainable active management of our federal forest lands.  For 2012, you can still reach us at 530-527-0666 and at  Member counties and schools, and statewide coalitions will be billed for their pro-rata share of the NFCSC dues in January 2012.

2012 NFCSC Dues and PFRA Contributions Will Be a Single Invoice This Year

For purposes of clarity, this years billing for PFRA and NFCSC will be combined in one invoice.  We will be sending out a prorated billing for the total amount of $152,259, which represents a 77% reduction in requested dues and contributions over 2011. 

We would encourage you to please send these reduced dues and PFRA contributions for 2012 as early as possible.  Without your support, the NFCSC will cease to exist and the PFRA Campaign will be discontinued.  Needless to say, without the NFCSC and the PFRA Campaign, Congress will not act to protect rural counties, schools, or our forest.

Please send us your 2012 dues as soon as possible after receiving your bill.  Cash flow over the next 3 months is critical to our success!

Retirements and Leadership Changes Approved

Both Executive Director Bob Douglas and Chief Financial Officer Dr. Marvin Locke announced that they will be retiring from NFCSC service on June 30, 2012.  Likewise, current NFCSC President Jim French has indicated that due to his anticipated retirement in 2012 that he will likewise step down from the Presidents position in June 2012, and long-serving Vice-President for Education, Dr. Tim Creal, is also stepping down due to retirement.  Given these changes, the NFCSC Board of Directors at their Annual Corporate Meeting approved the following individuals to serve as 2012 NFCSC officers:

January 2012 - June 2012  (To Maintain Continuity Through the Campaigns End)

  • President - Jim French, Trinity County Superintendent of Schools (CA)
  • 1st Vice President - Doug Robertson, Douglas County Commissioner (OR)
  • 2nd Vice President (Counties) - Paul Pearce, Skamania County Commissioner (WA)
  • 2nd Vice President (Schools) - Dr. Tim Creal, Custer County School District Superintendent (SD)
  • Chief Financial Officer - Dr. Marvin Locke, Tehama County Superintendent of Schools Retired (CA)
  • Secretary - Marianne Roose, Lincoln County Commissioner (MT)

July 2012 - December 2012

  • President - Paul Pearce, Skamania County Commissioner (WA)
  • 1st Vice President/Chief Financial Officer - Doug Robertson, Douglas County Commissioner (OR)
  • 2nd Vice President - Joe Silva, Tuolumne County Superintendent of Schools (CA)
  • 2nd Vice President (Schools) - Kermith Walters, Siskiyou County Superintendent of Schools (CA)
  • Secretary - Marianne Roose, Lincoln County Commissioner (MT)

Congratulations to our 2012 NFCSC Officers.

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