County Leaders Lobby for Federal Lands Money

In this July 24, 2018, file photo, Francisco Avendano, visiting from Madrid, Spain, photographs Half Dome as smoke from the Ferguson Fire hangs over Yosemite National Park, Calif.

In this July 24, 2018, file photo, Francisco Avendano, visiting from Madrid, Spain, photographs Half Dome as smoke from the Ferguson Fire hangs over Yosemite National Park, Calif. AP Photo/Noah Berger

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Local governments received $514 million last year through a program meant to compensate them for the property taxes they are unable to collect from federal lands.

Yosemite National Park may be renowned for its beauty, but it requires a lot of upkeep.

Nearly half of the trash that Mariposa County, California disposes of each year comes from the park. To pay for the maintenance, the county relies on money distributed through a federal program that compensates counties where non-taxable federal lands are located.

The Payment in Lieu of Tax (PILT) program aims to help offset the cost of county services and local officials say it is a critical resource. But the program is due to expire at the end of September unless it gets new funding, prompting county leaders to descend on the nation’s capital Wednesday to lobby members of Congress to put up more money.

Local officials got one bit of good news Wednesday as U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden announced his intention in the coming week to introduce a bill that would reauthorize PILT for 10 years.

“This is all about finally getting all of you off this roller coaster,” said the Oregon Democrat as he addressed a coalition of local officials during a National Association of Counties event held on Capitol Hill.

Federal lawmakers have proposed other changes to the PILT program this year to make it more equitable for small communities. Legislation introduced in July to would adjust the PILT funding formula to create four new population tiers so that counties with fewer than 5,000 people could receive higher payouts.

The proposal would help small rural counties that too often get pushed aside, said U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, a Montana Republican who sponsored the bill. At least nine counties in Montana would receive more money through the proposal, which Daines stressed would not reduce payouts to larger counties.

In fiscal 2019, the U.S. Department of Interior paid $514 million to 1,900 local governments in 49 states through the PILT program. While county leaders would ultimately like the PILT program to be made permanent through legislation, they are also lobbying Congress to fund the program through fiscal 2020 appropriations. 

The $1.3 million that Mariposa County received last year through the program helps the county pay for everything from trash collection to law enforcement to search and rescue operations on federal land, said Kevin Cann, a county supervisor.

“With 4 million people coming to your county each year for the natural environment, which is rugged mountains, you end up with lots of search and rescue operations,” said Cann, who also serves as president of the National Association of Counties’ Western Interstate Region. “Those are things you can’t just not do.”

Rural and Western states, home to many large national parks and wildlife refuges, are the biggest recipients of the program. PILT funds are distributed through a formula that considers the number of acres of non-taxable federal land—including national parks— located within a jurisdiction. The program, in existence since 1977, is funded through revenue from commercial activities on public lands and has distributed more than $9.2 billion.

In some rural areas, federal land can make up as much as 90 percent of a county. With small populations, those counties have finite amount of property and income tax revenue from residents to pay for maintenance of those lands and infrastructure, said Scott Hutsell, a commissioner in Lincoln County, Washington and the president of the Washington State Association of Counties.

Lincoln County received $245,000 in PILT funding in fiscal 2019.

“If I was to take those dollars out of my budget equation right now, I lose three to four deputies out of my sheriff’s office,” Hutsell said.

While on Capitol Hill, local government officials also asked federal lawmakers to stabilize another funding source, the Secure Rural Schools program. Despite the name, the SRS program funds everything from public safety to road maintenance. The program was first authorized in 2000 to provide payments to local governments that had seen revenues from timber harvests on federal lands decline as a result of environmental policies.

The program has not been consistently reauthorized, leading concern among local leaders about budget gaps.  

Wyden and U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo, an Idaho Republican, introduced legislation this year that would create an endowment fund that would incur interest that could be used to sustain the program in the long-term.

Andrea Noble is a staff correspondent with Route Fifty.

FEATURED CASE STUDIES
Powered By The Atlas
Orlando Protects Citizens During Heavy Rain Events by Optimizing Water Data Intelligence
Orlando, FL, USA
Olathe, KC Takes its Community Engagement to the Next Level with a Civic Engagement Platform
Olathe, KS, USA
Asheville Parks & Rec Strategic Plan Boosts Staff Participation & Deepens Community Relationships
Asheville, NC, USA

NEXT STORY: NRA Files Lawsuit Against San Francisco after City Supervisors Label It a Terror Group

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.