From the time that Utah became a state in 1896 up until 1976 the Federal Government’s plans for disposal of public lands changed. The original plan was for the Federal Government to hold the public lands of the state in trust and tax free until title was extinguished. However, with the passage of the Federal Lands Policy Management Act (FLPMA) in 1976 the Federal Government decided to instead hold title to those lands for conservation and preservation. The congress at the time did recognize that the state and counties would need to be compensated for these lands that were tax free, so they created PILT. Payment in Lieu of Taxes is just that, a payment that is made by the federal government to counties for land that can’t be taxed, to help pay for the services that counties provide.
For states like Utah where approx. 63% of the land in the state is held by the Federal Government it can be tricky to provide all the services necessary particularly in counties that have 90% federal ownership. Utah received $35 million dollars last year for about 32 million acres of public lands.
Our show discusses the challenges that counties have with PILT; particularly in how the program is funded (Congress must appropriate the funds each year). Elected officials in Utah and other Western States are beginning to question whether it is appropriate for local governments to rely on these funds and whether the federal government should own so much land in their states and counties.
Please check out these websites for additional background: