WASHINGTON – The National Association of Counties (NACo) today welcomed inclusion of a new program to provide additional direct aid to public lands counties as a part of the American Rescue Plan Act. Sixty-two percent of America’s counties contain untaxable federal public lands, yet counties are still responsible for providing many services in and around these lands.
The Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Fund, spearheaded by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), will provide $1.5 billion in direct, flexible aid to public lands counties over the next two years, in addition to the American Rescue Plan Act’s $65.1 billion county aid package. The legislation tasks the U.S. Treasury Department with developing a distribution formula based on each eligible county’s economic conditions, such as poverty and unemployment rates, household income and land value.
County leaders from across the West issued the following statements of support:
“The presence of federal lands can limit a community’s economic opportunities, which can make it even more difficult for a county to recover after this pandemic,” said Ravalli County, Mont. Commissioner and NACo Western Interstate Region President Greg Chilcott. “The new Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Fund will provide an additional level of support in providing critical services to our residents and visitors when demand is at its highest. We thank Senator Wyden for including this proposal in the final bill.”
“Federal lands counties rely on natural resource extraction, such as timber and petroleum, as a key component of our local economies,” said Sublette County, Wyo. Commissioner and NACo Public Lands Steering Committee Chairman Joel Bousman. “The COVID-19 pandemic has cost us jobs in these sectors and negatively impacted communities like mine. Senator Wyden’s Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Fund will ensure western counties have the resources necessary to meet the public safety, community health and economic assistance needs of our residents and public lands visitors.”
"We are grateful to Senator Wyden for adding stable and predictable revenue for counties with public lands,” said Coos County, Ore. Commissioner and Association of Oregon Counties President Melissa Cribbins. “Rural counties depend on natural resource sectors and recreational economies that benefit both the federal government and our local communities."
“The sharp reduction in timber harvests from federal lands has significantly decreased the amount of receipt sharing payments at a time when county services are needed more than ever,” said Douglas County, Ore. Commissioner and Association of O&C Counties President Tim Freeman. “This two-year package will allow O&C County Commissioners to focus on public health, public safety and other vital county services. The Association of O&C Counties thanks Senator Wyden for his work on this funding package.”Standard