Local governments get $40.1 million to offset tax loss from federal lands

Author: Joey Bunch - June 28, 2018 - Updated: July 5, 2018

PILT checkDeputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who grew up in Rifle, presents a check from the federal government to local governments on the Western Slope Wednesday. (Photo by Faith Vander Voort, deputy press secretary at the Department of the Interior)

Fifty-six Colorado towns and counties that are home to federal lands received an oversized check from one of their own this week.

Deputy Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who grew up in Rifle, delivered an oversized check for $40.1 million from the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, which helps lesson the blow to local governments for having large swaths of untaxed land on their books. The money represents a federal holding of nearly 23.7 million acres in the state.

Fifty-seven of Colorado’s 64 counties got a piece of the windfall.

Mesa County, which is comprised of more than 70 percent federal lands, got the most of any Colorado county, nearly $3.6 million. Neighboring Garfield County received $3.2 million and Larimer County on the northern Front Range netted about $2 million.

The full list is available by clicking here.

“I’ve been a staunch advocate for the PILT program, and I support the federal government’s commitment to the communities that will receive this funding across Colorado,” Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, a Republican, said in a joint press release with Sen. Michael Bennet, a Democrat. “These grants, which are used for critical services like law enforcement and infrastructure investments, prove why it is so important for Congress to fully fund the PILT program.”

Bennet said, “It’s welcome news that Colorado communities will receive more than $40 million in funding so counties can provide basic services like road maintenance and law enforcement. This underscores why we’ve fought for years to fully fund PILT and find a long-term solution to provide counties and local governments sustained funding and predictability.”

“This funding is just one more example of ‘promises made and promises kept’ by the president and Secretary (Ryan) Zinke,” Bernhardt said in Grand Junction, as KJCT8 TV reported.

Last year Colorado received about $36.6 million from the PILT program, which has been around since 1976.

In a statement,  Zinke said, “Local communities contribute significantly to our nation’s economy, food and energy supply and help define the character of our diverse and beautiful country. “These investments often serve as a lifeline for local communities as they juggle planning and paying for basic services like public safety, fire-fighting, social services and transportation.”


Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch

Joey Bunch is the senior political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has a 31-year career in journalism, including the last 15 in Colorado. He was part of the Denver Post team that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and is a two-time Pulitzer finalist. His resume includes covering high school sports, the environment, the casino industry and civil rights in the South, as well as a short stint at CNN.