Graduate Project


Federal Timber Payments and County Government Expenditures in Oregon Public Deposited

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  • The federal government owns 60 percent of Oregon’s forests and, since 1908, has shared proceeds from federal forest timber harvests with counties. These revenues have provided a relatively stable source of funds for the provision of services by county governments in Oregon. Shared revenues from US Forest Service (USFS) lands are dedicated to county roads and schools (the school portion is put into a county school fund to be passed through to school districts). Shared revenues from Bureau of Land Management (BLM) forests, however, can be used for any county government service. Changes in federal forest management policy during the 1990s reduced federal timber harvest and thus disrupted this relationship. Passage of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000 (SRS) replaced the shared revenue system with fixed annual payments to counties that were based on the USFS and BLM payment levels made during years with historically high timber harvests. This essay explores the relationship between USFS and BLM SRS payments to Oregon counties and county expenditures on ten categories of services in FY2006 and FY 2007. In both years per capita USFS SRS Payments levels are significantly and positively related to per capita county spending on roads and schools, controlling for county income per capita, population density, and property taxes per capita. Controlling for these same factors, per capita BLM SRS payments were positively associated with per capita county expenditures on healthcare and public safety in 2007. These results suggest that federal forest payments associated with USFS land do, as intended, support higher county road and county school fund spending. The finding that counties receiving higher unrestricted BLM payments per capita spend more per capita on healthcare and public safety suggest that these services are accorded high priority by county officials.
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