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US Ag Dept. grants $323M to 41 states; ND's share: $630

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Tuesday that it was granting $323 million to 41 states and Puerto Rico as part of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act. North Dakota's share: $630.

While its neighbors, Minnesota, Montana and South Dakota, are getting at least $1 million each through the program, which began in 2000 and was reauthorized again last year, North Dakota received the smallest of any state in the program. That $630 goes to McHenry County.

"McHenry (County) qualifies for it because you need to have certain federal lands," said Deputy State Treasurer Jeb Oehlke.

McHenry County has 743 eligible acres. Minnesota has 2.8 million acres and is receiving $8.4 million. Montana has 17 million acres and is receiving $19.7 million. South Dakota has 1.1 million acres and is receiving $1.6 million.

States need to have a national forest or grassland in order to qualify for funding through the Secure Rural Schools act, said Scott Fenimore, USDA Forest Service legislative affairs coordinator for the northern region from his Missoula, Mont., office. It's not the only payment that North Dakota receives from the U.S. Forest Service.

The Secure Rural Schools program was created to provide funding to counties for schools and roads when income from timber had lessened, U.S. Forest Service media officer Chris Strebig said from his Golden, Colo., office. The program is beneficial for communities in the Pacific Northwest where logging was prevalent from the 1960s to '80s.

Oregon is receiving $63 million from 15.1 million acres and Washington netted $20 million from 10.8 million acres.

The payments are based on receipts off of national forest and other federal lands between a 20-year period, he said. Over time, it is a reduced payment.

"We don't make payments to the states unless they request it," Fenimore said. "In North Dakota's case, the maximum amount this year, what they were eligible for, was $630. McHenry County opted to receive that through their negotiation with the state office."

Counties are allowed to use any payment less than $100,000 for school or road needs, Oehlke said.

The money that McHenry County gets goes to the general fund, because it is such a small amount, County Auditor Darlene Carpenter said.

The general fund covers road maintenance, she said.

"In the whole scheme of things -- it's kind of a drop in the bucket," Carpenter said of the money.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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