Sequestration Impact on Timberand Public Land Issues in States
J U N E 2 0 1 3
ThE coUNcil of sTaTE govErNmENTs
Although the amounts may seem small comparedto the overall size of state budgets, letters sent byU.S. Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell demandingstates return $17.9 million in funds generated fromtimber harvesting on federal lands due to spend-ing cuts imposed by the sequester have generatedsignicant bipartisan concern in Congress and states.
“This (the agency’s decision) is slap-your-forehead-in-disbelief kind of stuff,” said Sen. Ron Wyden,chair of the Senate Energy and Natural ResourcesCommittee.The Forest Service is demanding return of moneygenerated from 2012 timber sales to meet its obliga-tions under the federal sequester law, which requiresa 5 percent cut in its 2013 budget. States received thefunds in January 2013 without any notice that theycould be impacted by the highly publicized sequester,which took effect in early March. Bipartisanopposition from Congressional members of theHouse Natural Resources Committee noted in aletter to the Department of Agriculture and Ofceof Management and Budget that all federal agencieshave been aware of the sequester’s effective date of March 1, but states were given no notice and did notreceive letters seeking repayment until 19 days later.
Public Lands and the States
•The federal government owns roughly 28 per-cent—or approximately 640 million acres—of land in the U.S., according to information pro-vided by the General Services Administration.The U.S. Forest Service within the Departmentof Agriculture and the Department of Interiorprimarily manage this land.
•This gure, however, does not include the roughly19 million acres managed by the Departmentof Defense or the 125 million acres of marinerefuges, monuments and land managed by the De-partment of Energy or Bureau of Reclamation.
•On a proportional basis, the federal governmentowns signicantly more land in Western statesthan in states east of the Mississippi River. Forexample, the federal government owns 0.3 percentof land in Connecticut compared to 81 percent of land in Nevada.•Many counties and localities surrounded by orcontaining signicant public land holdings canexperience an acute impact on economic develop-ment because of their limited property tax basefor school funding, road construction and otherneeded projects and programs.•To address some of these hardships, the federalgovernment administers and manages programslike Payment In Lieu of Taxes, which collect fundsgenerated from oil and gas leasing, grazing orother economic activities on public land that isgiven back to rural states and communities to payfor infrastructure, schools and public safety needs.In 2012, the Department of Interior announced arecord $393 million in Payment In Lieu of Taxesfunding.
States and Secure Rural Schools
For more than a century, the federal governmenthas returned a portion – roughly 25 percent of therevenue generated from timber sales and manage-ment activities on public land back to states for ruralcounties.