U.S. Forest Service budget cuts could cost Arizona money

May 03, 2013

The federal government is telling hundreds of counties across the country it wants some money back. The U.S. Forest Service says it has to cut its budget by five percent because of sequestration, and that could mean several counties in Arizona could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is a program that dates back to when the national forests were created by President Teddy Roosevelt.  Counties receive a share of revenues from timber sold on federal land located in those counties.

The money is used for roads, schools and emergency services. Coconino County gets close to $4 million annually through the program.

Assistant County manager Joanne Keene said the five percent the Forest Service wants back has already been spent.

"For us it’s about $200,000. When we received the notice we had already given our allocation to the school districts," Keene said. "Obviously we are continuing doing road work and road maintenance. We just went through a big snow season and snow storm."

Other Arizona counties that get money through the program are working with the governor’s office to fight the Forest Service demands. Even if the counties win this round, they face another challenge. The Secure Rural Schools Act which provided the funding has expired, and Congress has not renewed it, meaning the counties could still be left without needed funds.