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Local federal lands projects to get $49,000 in Secure Rural Schools Act money
The U.S. Forest Service announced Wednesday that California will receive more than $35 million to support local schools and roads as part of the reauthorization of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. The law provides funding for rural counties and schools located near national forests that have traditionally been supported by timber payments.
According to the Bureau of Land Management, the act establishes a six-year payment schedule to local counties, in lieu of funds derived from the harvest of timber on federal lands. The act is made up of three titles: Title I, II and III.
Tulare County’s share of the Title II funds, for special projects on federal land, is expected to be $49,462, according to Penelope Shibley, coordinator of the Kern and Tulare Counties Resource Advisory Committee — charged with recommending distribution of funds through the national forest for projects under Title II of the program.
Shibley said Wednesday that the Kern and Tulare Counties RAC already recommended funding for 10 projects in Tulare County in September 2012, and Sequoia National Forest Supervisor Kevin Elliott approved them.
Projects to be funded include the Tule River Restoration project by WildPlaces; the Needles Lookout Rebuild project, a slew of trail maintenance projects by the High Sierra Volunteer Trail Crew out of Clovis; the Tobias Creek Trails Preservation project by Stewards of the Sequoia; Preventing Wildlife Entrapment on the Hume Lake Ranger District and for RAC administrative support.
The Needles Lookout Rebuild project will receive the largest chunk of the money, at $13,217.
Linn Gassaway, archaeologist for the Western Divide Ranger District and leader of the Needles Lookout Rebuild project, said the money serves as the first, real pot of money they’ll have to start the project.
“We are still doing the last little bit of finishing our National Environmental Policy Act paperwork and we hope to have a public announcement in the next month saying, ‘Hey, we’re going forward,’ and with the RAC money we’ll start going other places to get all the funding that we’ll need to rebuild the lookout.”
Carlos Gomez, program manager with WildPlaces, said the Springville-based nonprofit is excited about the money.
The Tule River Restoration project will involve removal of invasive species and trail maintenance along the Tule River come summer. Gomez said they plan to build a crew of volunteers made up of local youth and community members to help with the projects.
“We submitted a proposal to allow us the opportunity to put the shovel to the ground to create some concrete changes in the way some people can enjoy the river,” he said. “Once we have a complete plan and the project already organized, we’ll reach out to people asking for volunteers. It’s really cool; it’s really exciting.”
For a complete list of all 10 projects, visit https://fsplaces.fs.fed.us/fsfiles/unit/wo/secure_rural_schools.nsf/Web_Projects_by_RAC_Restrict?OpenView&Count=1000&RestrictToCategory=Kern+and+Tulare+Counties+.