BWCAW land reappraisal sends more money to countiesThree Northeastern Minnesota counties will get a little something extra from the U.S. Forest Service this year.
By: Janna Goerdt, Duluth News Tribune
Three Northeastern Minnesota counties will get a little something extra from the U.S. Forest Service this year.
A nearly threefold increase in the appraised value of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, which stretches across northern Cook, Lake, and St. Louis counties, means each county will receive more in payments in lieu of taxes, or PILT, from the federal agency.
Federal law requires that the BWCAW lands be re-appraised every 10 years, and counties receive three-quarters of one percent of that valuation as a PILT payment. That money helps offset lost taxes the county would otherwise receive if the land was developed.
The 1998 total appraised value of the BWCAW lands was $280 million. The new appraisal pegged the value at $820 million.
That means St. Louis County’s payment will jump to about $1.6 million annually; Lake County will receive about $2.5 million and Cook County will receive about $2 million. The money is deposited to each county’s general fund.
St. Louis County Commissioner Dennis Fink said those payments are offset somewhat by their impact on other PILT payments, but will nonetheless end up being a significant increase for each county.
“The additional revenue can’t be looked at as anything else but wonderful news,” Fink said. “It’s likely our representatives in Washington can imagine how timely and appropriate this is.”
Cook County Commissioner Bob Fenwick said deciding how to use the money most effectively will be a challenge. He said the county needs to boost spending on roads, but the County Board must reach an agreement on the spending.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey flew to Duluth from Washington, D.C. on Thursday to make the announcement. He also recognized the addition of the 43-acre, undeveloped Long Island on Burntside Lake near the BWCAW to U.S. Forest Service ownership.
The island was purchased more than four years by the Trust for Public Land and then sold to the Forest Service for permanent preservation.