A bipartisan group of U.S. senators is urging President Barack Obama to include the reauthorization of county timber payments in his 2012 budget.

A four-year extension of the payments in 2008, known as the Secure Rural Schools and Communities Self-Determination Act, are due to expire in 2011.

According to July 14 letter the act "is not just an entitlement program, but rather a demonstration of the commitment that this nation made to rural forest counties when it determined that large blocks of our forest lands should be set aside for the benefit of the entire nation."

The act, originally passed in 2000, has been re-authorized twice since 2007.

The act pumps millions of dollars into rural Western U.S. counties, helping pay for roads, education, conservation and other services.

The U.S. House is sending Obama a similar letter.

Senators signing on to the letter include Oregon Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, James E. Risch, R-Idaho, Patty Murray, D-Wash., Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Dianne Feinstein D-Calif.

--Mitch Lies

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