Mesa County to receive $3.7 million PILT payment

David Bernhardt

Mesa County will receive more than $3.7 million in the latest payment in lieu of taxes on federal lands in the county.

The payment is the single largest to a Colorado county out of more than $41.7 million in so-called PILT payments for the 2020 fiscal year. Nationwide, the Department of Interior will distribute a total of  $514.7 million under the program.

“This year’s distribution of $514.7 million to more than 1,900 counties will help small towns pay for critical needs like emergency response, public safety, public schools, housing, social services and infrastructure,” said Interior Secretary David Bernhardt.

The PILT program compensates local government entities for revenues from nontaxable federal lands, including those administered by the Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service and National Park Service. Payments are based on the acreage of federal land and population within a county. Since the program began in 1977, the Department of the Interior has distributed more than $9.7 billion.

Funding for the payments comes from the more than $13.2 billion in annual revenue the Department of the Interior collects from commercial activities on federal lands, including energy development, livestock grazing and timber harvests.

The 2020 payment to Mesa County, which tops the 2019 payment by about $100,000, is based on nearly 1.6 million acres of federal lands in the county. The combined acreage of federal lands in Mesa County is third in Colorado behind only Moffat County with almost 1.7 million acres and Gunnison County with more than 1.6 million acres.

The PILT payment is higher for Mesa County than other counties, though, because of its larger population. Moffat County will receive a payment of nearly $969,000. Gunnison County will receive more than $1.3 million.

With nearly 1.2 million acres of federal lands, Garfield County will receive the second largest PILT payment in Colorado of more than $3.3 million.

Montrose County will receive more than $2.7 million in payment in lieu of taxes on nearly 1 million acres of federal land.

Despite having almost 1.5 million acres of federal lands, the less populated Rio Blanco County will receive almost $600,000. Delta County will receive more than $933,000 for more than 400,000 acres.