County Payments Research

County governments are compensated for the tax-exempt status of federal public lands within their boundaries. These payments often constitute a significant portion of county and school budgets, particularly in rural counties with extensive public land ownership.

  • How these payments continue may be the most important policy decision affecting county budgets, economic opportunity, and how public lands are managed.
  • Headwaters Economics analyzed various potential reforms to better understand the impacts on counties and citizens, especially in rural communities.
  • Reforms to county payments should be evaluated by whether they provide stable and predictable compensation to counties, create job opportunities in line with today’s economy, and improve forest health.

County Payment Timeline

This post contains a summary of the policy proposals, analysis, research, history and context, and interactive tools created by Headwaters Economics concerning federal land payments to counties and states, including SRS and PILT (often called county payments).

Policy Reform Ideas

Policy reform proposals should address the how PILT, agency payments, and land management can work together to provide stable and predictable compensation to counties, create job opportunities in line with today’s economy, and improve forest health.