Roosevelt National Forest in Colorado

(Photo: Courtesy of the US Forest Service)
Local government officials from across Colorado gathered in Grand Junction on Monday to urge Congress to reinstate the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program.

Under PILT, Federal payments to local governments help offset losses in property tax due to non-taxable Federal lands within their boundaries.

The 30-year-old program sent nearly $400 million to 1900 counties nationwide last year but Congress left it out of the most recent budget.

Mesa County Commissioner John Justman says 72 percent of the county is public land.

"We’re spending a lot of county resources on that and we can’t get anything out of you folks because we can’t build on it and we don’t collect any tax revenue," Justman said.

Justman said Mesa County receives about $3.1 million from the program which is the highest figure of any county in the state. 

The funds help pay for police and fire protection on the federal lands as well as some road maintenance.

"With that money our Sheriff takes care of incidents on public land, fire departments will respond to calls on public land and we have a county road grader up there maintaining that divide road for the whole summer," Justman said.

Mesa County will have to decide if it will continue to provide those services if the funding is cut, according to Justman.

Supporters of PILT are hopeful the program will be included in Farm Bill negotiations but passing that measure is still far from certain.