Ravalli Republic: Montana to receive $43.3M in PILT funding

by Jessica Abell

The state of Montana is set to receive $43.3 million in federal Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) funding.

Ravalli County will receive the highest amount of any county in Montana with $3,315,024. Lewis and Clark County will see the second highest payment with $3,236,068, and Missoula County will receive $2,790,387 in funding.

Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) are payments that help local governments offset losses in property taxes due to the existence of nontaxable federal lands within their boundaries.

Because local governments cannot tax federal lands, annual PILT payments help to defray the costs associated with maintaining important community services such as law enforcement, firefighting, roads and infrastructure.

PILT payments are made for tax-exempt federal lands including the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Utah Reclamation Mitigation and Conservation Commission.

The formula used to calculate payments is based on the amount of federal land within an affected county, population and revenue-sharing payments, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The U.S. Department of the Interior collects more than $22.2 billion in revenue annually from commercial activities on public lands. A portion of those revenues is shared with states and counties. The balance is deposited into the U.S. Treasury, which in turn pays for a broad array of federal activities, including PILT funding. 

The $43.3 million in PILT funding headed to Montana will help counties provide critical services, according to a statement released by Montana Senator Jon Tester on Wednesday.

“Montana’s rural counties rely on PILT funding to provide essential services they otherwise would not be able to afford,” said Tester. “I’m proud to have secured this funding to help Montana counties rebuild schools, plow roads, and keep law enforcement officers on the beat, and I will keep fighting to ensure these resources will be there for the folks that count on them.”

As a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Tester secured these funds through the passage of the 2024 government funding bill.

PILT payments are made in addition to other federal payments to states, such as those for oil and gas leasing, livestock grazing and timber harvesting.

“The Biden-Harris administration is committed to boosting local communities,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget Joan Mooney. “PILT payments help local governments carry out vital services, such as firefighting and police protection, construction of public schools and roads, and search-and-rescue operations. We are grateful for our ongoing partnerships with local jurisdictions across the country who help the Interior Department fulfill our mission on behalf of the American public.”  

Since PILT payments began in 1977, nearly $12 billion in PILT funding has been distributed to states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to the DOI.

A full list of funding by state and county is available on the DOI Payments in Lieu of Taxes webpage.