Okanogan County received more than $3.14 million in June from the federal Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, which compensates counties for nontaxable federal lands. The 2023 payment covers more than 1.5 million acres in the county.
Not only is Okanogan Washington’s largest county geographically, but it has more federal land than any other county in the state. Chelan County comes close, with almost 1.5 million federal acres.
But because PILT payments are calculated based on acreage, population and inflation, Chelan County received about $500,000 more than Okanogan this year.
PILT payments go into the county’s general fund and can be used for any expense that would be covered by property taxes.
All but 63,000 acres of the federal land in Okanogan County are managed by the U.S. Forest Service. There are small amounts managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation.
Washington counties received more than $27 million this year. Only Kitsap and Wahkiakum counties received no payments, since they have little or no federal land.
The U.S. Department of Interior distributed $578.8 million this year to more than 1,900 state and local governments across the country, primarily in western states.
In 2022, Okanogan County received almost $3 million from the PILT program.
The PILT program began in 1976. The Department of Interior collects more than $26.3 billion in revenue annually from commercial activities on public lands. A portion of those revenues is shared with states and counties. The balance pays for a broad array of federal activities, including PILT, according to the Department of Interior.