National forests generated $6.7 billion for hundreds of rural counties and their residents in 1991, but as the federal government lost the gumption to harvest timber, that revenue was replaced with a sort of botanical welfare:
The nation's decision to leave its national forests to nature's whims, despite their enormous monetary value, swept over hundreds of small logging towns with all the force of a tsunami.
Congress tried to calm the waters, first in 1993 by granting counties hurt by the owl's 1991 listing annual "owl guarantee payments"; and then, in 2000, by allocating $500 million in "safety net" funding to help all federal lands counties cover their budget shortfalls. But safety net funding wasn't designed to permanently replace lost harvest revenue; and now, in a rare moment of fiscal responsibility, Congress appears poised to cancel the deal–a possibility that has many a county commissioner on the warpath.
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