FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Rural communities across the country will get the largest amount of money ever distributed under a federal program called Payments In Lieu of Taxes or PILT. The program will dole out a total of $393 million.
The money goes to local governments that contain nontaxable federal lands -- like national parks and recreation areas. The Interior Department collects about $16 billion each year from commercial activities like oil and gas leasing and livestock grazing. A portion helps these communities pay for things like police salaries and fire trucks.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made the announcement Thursday.
"It’s a principle that’s guided by fairness," Salazar said. "If lands are held by the federal government and not taxed, then the government should offer payment in lieu of taxes."
For many communities the money is a significant portion of local budgets.
This year is the last of five to be funded. President Obama’s 2013 budget proposes a one-year extension.