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56 Colorado counties with tax-exempt federal lands getting $48M, $2 per acre

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(The Center Square) – Fifty-six counties in Colorado will receive $47.8 million as payment for approximately 24 million acres of tax-exempt federal lands within the state, or about $2.00 per acre.

The funding, called “Payments in Lieu of Taxes,” was created in 1976 and rewritten and amended in 1982. The money paid to help local governments offset losses in property taxes for the nontaxable federal lands within their boundaries.

A formula is used to calculate the payments. Population, revenue-sharing payments and the amount of federal land within the county are taken into account. “Payments in Lieu of Taxes” are made in addition to other federal funds paid for oil and gas leasing, livestock grazing, and timber harvesting, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior.

“Without PILT, counties across Colorado cannot provide essential services such as law enforcement, education, search and rescue, road maintenance, and public health to their residents and many visitors to our beautiful public lands,” Colorado Democrat U.S. Senator Michael Bennet said in a statement announcing the funding. “These funds will provide Colorado communities certainty and show that the federal government continues to uphold its commitment to public lands counties.”

Agencies with lands administered by the Department of Interior include the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Reclamation. Payments also are made for federal lands administered by the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Colorado received $44.2 million from the payment program during in 2022 and $46 million last year.

“Our public lands, and the local communities surrounding them, make Colorado a standout place to live and visit,” Colorado Democrat U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper said in a statement. “PILT works to sustain those communities by using tax revenue generated on public lands to help counties invest in essential services like firefighting and infrastructure.”

Mesa County will receive the largest allocation at $4.4 million – almost 10% of the state’s funding – for 1.6 million acres of federal lands in its boundary. Garfield County will receive the second-largest amount at $4 million for its 1.18 million acres.

Moffat County has the most federal land at 1.67 million acres and will receive $825,195. Gunnison County is ranked second in the state for federal land with 1.63 million acres and will receive $1.9 million.

The U.S. Forest Service is the largest holder of Colorado federal land at 14.4 million acres, followed by the 8.1 million acres administered by the Bureau of Land Management. Gunnison County has the largest amount of land managed by the U.S. Forest Service with 1.3 million acres. Moffat County has the largest number of acres administered by the Bureau of Land Management at 1.5 million.

California received the largest allocation from the program at $64.3 million for its 44 million acres of federal land.

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