Editor's Note: A correction was made to this story on the percentage of acreage in Garfield County that is federally owned.
The U.S. Department of Interior released its annual Payments in Lieu of Taxes for 2019 on Thursday, with about one third of Colorado's portion going to six local counties.
In all, the federal agency sent about $39.9 million in PILT payments to 56 local governments in the state, about $12.4 million of which went to six northwestern Colorado counties. Nationally, the agency paid about $514 million to more than 1,900 counties nationwide, $39 million less than the federal government paid out last year.
The payments are made to help compensate local governments for federal lands within their boundaries because they are not subject to local property taxes. The money is to be used for such things as public safety, schools, housing, social services or infrastructure.
"These payments are one example of the United States striving to be good neighbors to local communities," Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in a statement.
Nationally, the federal government controls about 649 million acres, 92 percent of which are located in 12 western states. In Colorado, that amounts to nearly 23 million areas, about 36 percent of the state's total acreage. The preponderance of that land is controlled by the U.S. Forest Service (14.5 million acres) and the Bureau of Land Management (8.3 acres).
While about 60 percent of Garfield County's total acreage is federally owned, Mesa County received the most in PILT payments even though only 73 percent of its total acres are public lands. PILT payments are based not only on the acres of federal land in a county, but also its population. As a result, here's what local counties received:
■ Mesa County: $3.6 million
■ Garfield County: $3.3 million
■ Montrose County: $2.7 million
■ Moffat County: $1.1 million
■ Delta County: $897,819
■ Rio Blanco County: $871,206
While the lesser populated of those counties received more money this year over 2018, the larger ones received about $50,000 to $100,000 less.
PILT payments are separate from federal mineral lease money local governments receive each year. That money comes from royalty payments paid by commercial activities on public lands, such as oil and gas drilling, livestock grazing and timber harvesting.
Money made from those activities, about $11.9 billion a year, goes to fund several federal programs, including PILT, which was created by Congress in 1977.