All Wildlife Refuges are managed under the U.S. fish & Wildlife Services, which is an agency inside of the Department of Interior. An important distinction on how annual Refuge Revenue Sharing (RRS) payments are calculated is how land was originally added to a refuge. There are two categories:

  1. Public domain Lands (also called Reserve Acres): These lands were designated as a wildlife refuge from existing public lands (land that was already in public ownership). RRS payments for Public Domain Lands are equal to 25 percent of net receipts generated from commercial activities that occur on refuge lands. Public domain lands are also eligible to receive PILT payments for local governments, as explained in Figure 2.
  2. Acquired Lands: These lands were purchased or donated from private owners. RRS payments for these lands are calculated as the highest of several options:  25 percent of net receipts from commercial activities; a minimum payment of $0.75 per acre; or 0.75 percent of the appraised market value of the land. Acquired lands are not eligible for PILT payments.

Only Acquired Lands get RRS payments based on formula mentioned in #2 above. Individual Counties with Wildlife Refuges will have to determine their own Reserve Acres vs Acquired Acres. As stated above, you get PILT dollars and 25% receipts payments on Reserve Acres and RRS formula payments are for Acquired Acres. All information below deals with Acquired Acres.

Out of Montana’s 56 counties, 30 receive RRS. The following numbers are from Fiscal Year 2017 and are the latest on U.S. FWS Webpage. These 30 Montana Counties received $302,853 which is only 29.15% of the Authorized Full Funding Amount. This means these 30 Montana Counties were shorted $742,660 in Fiscal Year 2017.

The amount of dollars to these counties varies greatly because of size and appraised value of each Refuge.

  • 6 (six) Montana Counties received less than $1,000 in Fiscal Year 2017 from RRS ~ Carbon, Glacier, Hill, Daniels, Golden Valley and Yellowstone.
  • 16 (sixteen) Montana Counties received greater than $1,000 but less than $10,000 in Fiscal Year 2017 from RRS ~ Blaine, Cascade, Chouteau, Fergus, Gallatin, Madison, McCone, Musselshell, Petroleum, Pondera, Powell, Stillwater, Teton, Toole, Valley and Roosevelt.
  • 4 (four) Montana Counties received greater than $10,000 but less than $25,000 in Fiscal Year 20174 from RRS ~ Garfield, Sanders, Ravalli and Sheridan.
  • 3 (three) Montana Counties received greater than $25,000 but less than $50,000 in Fiscal Year 2017 from RRS ~ Flathead, Lake and Phillips.
  • 1 (one) Montana County received greater than $50,000 in Fiscal Year 2017 from RRS ~ Beaverhead.

If Congress was to fully fund RRS, the amount still varies from County to County because of size, but the dollar amount becomes more significant.

  • 3 (three) Counties less than $1,000
  • 11 (eleven) Counties between $1,000 and $10,000
  • 5 (five) Counties between $10,000 and $25,000
  • 5 (five) Counties between $25,000 and $50,000
  • 3 (three) Counties between $50,000 and $100,000
  • 3 (three) Counties over $100,000

The following chart shows the Fiscal Year 2017 Actual Paid and the total due is formula based on 29.15% and that all counties are treated the same. These totals due are estimates only.

On the National level, Fiscal Year 2017 payments to all U.S. Counties was $22,243,193 compared to the $78,157,984 that is authorized by formula in Federal Law. Congress would need to appropriate an additional $56 million to fully fund RRS at the National level.

My ask to all Counties is that whenever talking with our Congressional Members about PILT/SRS that we also remind them of RRS. I would also reference MACo’s Public Lands Committee Policy Statements (in particular #36, #37, #38 and #39):

  • MACo calls for full funding of federal payments for Secure Rural Schools (SRS), Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT), Taylor Grazing, and Refuge Revenue Sharing programs to counties.
  • MACo supports the full funding of the PILT program and Refuge Revenue Sharing at its yearly authorized level and believes that all federal holdings should be included in the program.
  • MACo believes that shared natural resource payments to counties from activities such as timber sales, mineral leasing, grazing, and others are absolutely vital to county and school budgets.
  • MACo strongly opposes any effort to reallocate federal land payments to schools or the State of Montana as has been proposed in previous state legislation.

Thanks to all for the help in bringing these RRS payments to the front line.

I will leave you with the  talking points I left with our Delegation in Washington D.C. during the recent PILT/RRS Fly-in: http://www.mtcounties.org/wp-content/uploads/news/county-news/talking-points-pilt-fly-in-2019.pdf

Read more about Refuge Revenue Sharing payments by clicking here.

Thanks again,

Mike McGinley
Fiscal Officer, Montana Association of Counties
Beaverhead County Commissioner

Mike McGinley  |  Beaverhead County Commissioner, MACo Fiscal Officer
mmcginley@beaverheadcounty.org   |  (406) 683-3750