U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced this week that over 1,900 local governments around the country will receive $552.8 million in Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) funding for 2018. This is the largest amount ever allocated in the program’s 40-year history. PILT Program Compensates Communities for Supporting Nation’s Public Lands, Waters; Invests in Firefighters, Police, School and Road Construction. Mason County will receive $431,219. There are 128,164 acres of Forest Serve land and 37,757 acres of National Park Service Land in the County.
“As a kid who grew up in northwest Montana and whose sons graduated from the same high school as I did, I know how important PILT payments are to local communities that have federal lands. These investments are one of the ways the federal government is fulfilling its role of being a good land manager and good neighbor to local communities,” said Secretary Zinke. “Rural America, especially states out west with large federal land holdings, play a big part in feeding and powering the nation and also in providing recreation opportunities, but because the lands are federal, the local governments don’t earn revenue from them. PILT investments often serve as critical support for local communities as they juggle planning and paying for basic services, such as public safety, fire-fighting, social services, and transportation.”
PILT payments are federal payments to local governments that help offset losses in property taxes due to non-taxable federal lands within their boundaries. PILT payments help local governments carry out such vital services as firefighting and police protection, construction of public schools and roads, and search-and-rescue operations. The payments are made annually for tax-exempt federal lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (all agencies of the Department of the Interior), the U.S. Forest Service (part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture), and for federal water projects and some military installations. PILT payments are one of the ways the federal government can fulfill its role of being a good neighbor to local communities.
Using a formula provided by statute, the annual PILT payments to local governments are computed based on the number of acres of federal land within each county or jurisdiction and the population of that county or jurisdiction.
Since PILT payments began in 1977, Interior has distributed approximately $8.5 billion dollars to states and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The Department collects more than $9.6 billion in revenue annually from commercial activities on public lands, such as oil and gas leasing, livestock grazing and timber harvesting. A portion of these revenues is shared with states and counties. The balance is deposited in the U.S. Treasury, which in turn pays for a broad array of federal activities, including PILT funding.
Individual county payments may vary from year to year as a result of changes in acreage data, which is updated yearly by the federal agency administering the land; prior year Federal Revenue Sharing payments reported yearly by the Governor of each State; and population data, which is updated using information from the U.S. Census Bureau. Federal Revenue Sharing payments are made to local governments under programs other than PILT during the previous fiscal year, including payments such as those made under the Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenant Act, the Refuge Revenue Sharing Fund, the National Forest Fund, the Taylor Grazing Act, the Mineral Leasing Act, the Federal Power Act, and the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000, when authorized.