WASHINGTON (AP) _ President Clinton signed a bill Monday providing an additional $1 billion over five years for schools and roads in more than 700 rural counties.

The measure changes the formula for distributing aid to counties that have tax-exempt federal forest land within county boundaries.

Under a 1908 law, counties with federal forests nearby receive 25 percent of the revenue generated from the forests, mostly from logging.

But as logging on federal land declined by nearly 80 percent in the last decade, so did the aid for many rural counties. Rural school officials were forced to lay off teachers, cut back programs and cancel equipment purchases.

The new law increases and stabilizes the payments to counties by tying the annual aid amount to a three-year average of the highest forest payments between 1986 and 1999.

``Rural communities will no longer be dependent on decreasing federal timber sales to staff and equip schools and provide essential government services,'' a White House statement said.

The statement said additional money would help over 700 rural counties in 41 states to ``keep their schools strong, their emergency services operating and their roads maintained.''

Oregon would be the biggest beneficiary, with about $260 million in aid next year, followed by California, with $65 million, Washington state, with $44 million, and Idaho, with nearly $23 million.

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On the Net:

White House press release: http://www.whitehouse.gov/WH/new/html/Mon_Oct_30_135337_2000.html