November is Manatee Awareness Month; but no matter what time of year it is, manatees deserve to be celebrated. These amazing creatures fulfill a unique niche by serving as indicator species for ecosystems across the United States. Because of their reliance on the health of their habitat, manatees often act as a signal of their environment’s well-being. NOAA photo by Michael Buchanan.
Spring is coming early in 3/4 of national parks, according to a new study. Awesome? Not so much. As flowers bloom earlier every year, it’s disrupting the link between the wildflowers and the arrival of birds, bees, and butterflies that feed on and pollinate the flowers. In Shenandoah, an earlier spring is giving invasive plants a head start, and they’re displacing native wildflowers, leading to costly management issues.
Before the 1960s almost everything about living openly as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) person was illegal. New York City laws against homosexual activities were particularly harsh. The Stonewall Uprising on June 28, 1969 is a milestone in the quest for LGBT civil rights and provided momentum for a movement.
Vine Creek Ranch at Death Valley National Park. Steady drought and record summer heat make Death Valley a land of extremes. Towering peaks are frosted with winter snow. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers. Lush oases harbor tiny fish and refuge for wildlife and humans. Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley.
Secretary Salazar Announces Record $393 Million in ‘PILT' for Police, Fire, and Schools in Rural Communities
Highlight's Administration's Rural Initiative and Presses for Congress to Extend PILT
WASHINGTON, DC – As part of the Obama Administration's commitment to rural communities, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced today that more than 1,850 local governments around the Nation are receiving a record total of $393 million under the 2012 Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. Being distributed today, the payments are the largest amount ever allocated under the PILT program to compensate counties and local governments for non-taxable Federal land in their jurisdictions.
“Too often, rural communities have been forgotten by the policies of Washington, DC, but President Obama has made job creation and opportunity in rural areas a top priority for his Administration,” Secretary Salazar said in announcing the allocations. “Over the last three years we have fought for and delivered on the promise that the federal government should compensate local governments for lost tax revenue from federal lands, so that they can provide essential public services such as police, fire protection and emergency response programs.”
PILT program eligibility is reserved for local governments (usually rural counties) that contain nontaxable Federal lands and provide vital government services, such as public safety, housing, social services and transportation. These jurisdictions provide significant support for national parks, wildlife refuges and recreation areas throughout the year. PILT seeks to compensate them for their support and foregoing tax revenue from these Federal lands. A full list of funding by state and county is available at http://www.doi.gov/pilt.
“It is hard to overstate the impact of PILT funding for rural counties in particular, where these investments can make the difference in keeping a search and rescue crew on the job or a teacher in the classroom,” added Salazar. “It is a program we firmly believe should be extended, and we hope Congress will take the action that's needed.”
This year's PILT program is the last to be funded under the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, which enacted a five-year authorization for funding full entitlement levels of the program. The 2013 budget proposes a one-year extension of the current PILT program, maintaining the existing formula for calculating payments to counties – considering acreage, population and prior year revenue payments.
The Interior Department collects about $16 billion in revenue annually from commercial activities on Federal lands, such as oil and gas leasing, livestock grazing and timber harvesting. A portion of these revenues are shared with states and counties in the form of revenue-sharing payments. The balance is deposited in the U.S. Treasury, which in turn pays for a broad array of Federal activities, including PILT funding to counties.
Using a formula provided in statute, the annual PILT payments to local governments are computed based on the number of acres of Federal entitlement land within each county or jurisdiction and the population of that county or jurisdiction. The lands include the National Forest and National Park Systems, those managed by the Bureau of Land Management, those affected by Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation water resource development projects, and others.
Individual county payments may vary from the prior year as a result of changes in acreage data, which is updated yearly by the federal agency administering the land, prior year Federal Revenue Sharing payments reported yearly by the Governor of each State, and population data, which is updated using data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Federal Revenue Sharing payments are payments made to local governments under programs other than PILT during the previous fiscal year. Payments include those made under the Refuge Revenue Sharing Fund, the National Forest Fund and the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000, among others.
For purposes of calculating the 2012 payment, the per acre amounts are adjusted for inflation from the 2011 payment of $2.42 per acre and thirty-three cents per acre to $2.47 and thirty-four cents per acre, and the population variables are adjusted from $65.20 - $162.98 to $66.49 - $166.21 per capita. The 2012 authorized level is $393.4 million. This includes $400,000 for program administration and $393 million for payments to counties.