Tester Brings in More Than $12 Million in Critical Support for Montana Counties Through Secure Rural Schools Program

Senator’s efforts to fund Secure Rural Schools program pays off big for Montana communities

Following his years long effort to revive and protect the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act (SRS), U.S. Senator Jon Tester is announcing that Montana will receive $12,197,140.10 as part of the program, helping to fund critical county-run services like law enforcement, schools, and roads.

“Secure Rural Schools provides critical funding to Montana counties: helping maintain roads, keep kids in the classroom, and respond to emergencies-and we’ve seen firsthand that, without it, our communities feel the burn,” said Tester. “That’s why I’ve been relentless in my efforts to ensure that SRS is authorized and funded, so we can bring these much-needed resources directly to Montana counties, especially as they work to recover from the coronavirus crisis and get their economies back on track.”

Congress passed SRS in 2000 to compensate forested counties for lost revenue due to declining timber production on federal lands. For the next 15 years, more than two dozen Montana counties received annual SRS payments to help fund schools, roads, law enforcement, and other essential services. Tester led the charge to revive the program after Congress allowed it to expire in 2015-which resulted in an 85 percent decrease in annual payments for Montana. He was the only member of Montana’s congressional delegation who voted to successfully reauthorize SRS in 2018.

Tester secured authorization for two years of SRS funding in 2019 and pushed to create a long-term funding solution for the program at the start of the coronavirus pandemic to end stop-and-start authorizations and payments that left rural communities with insecurity. Earlier this year, he reintroduced legislation to that would reauthorize SRS through September 2022 and allow funds to be used to expand broadband connectivity at schools.