Mesa County to receive almost $3.5 million in latest PILT distribution

Mesa County will receive almost $3.5 million in the latest payment in lieu of taxes on more than 1.5 million acres of public land.

The payment is the single largest to a Colorado county out of a total of nearly
$37 million in so-called PILT payments for the 2017 fiscal year in the state. Nationwide, a record $464.6 million will be distributed to 1,900 local government entities.

“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,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke stated in a news release announcing the payments. “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 tax 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, firefighting, social services and transportation.”

The PILT program compensates local government entities for revenues from nontaxable federal lands, including those administered by the Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and National Park Service. Payments are based on the acreage of federal land and population within a county. Funding for the payments comes from the nearly $9 billion in annual revenue the Department of Interior collects from commercial activities on federal lands, including energy development, livestock grazing and timber harvests.

The combined acreage of federal lands in Mesa County is third in Colorado behind only Moffat County with nearly 1.7 million acres and Gunnison County with more than 1.6 million acres. The PILT payment is higher for Mesa County than the other counties, though, because of its larger population.

With nearly 1.2 million acres of federal lands, Garfield County will receive the second largest PILT payment in Colorado for 2017 fiscal of more than $3.1 million. “It will be great to help fund much of the needed infrastructure projects within the county,” said Rio Blanco County Commissioner Geri Byrne.

Montrose County will receive almost $2.5 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 about $553,000. Delta County will receive almost $710,000 for more than 400,000 acres.