Follow the Money

A Spatial History of In-Lieu Programs for Western Federal Lands

Joseph E Taylor III, Erik Steiner, Krista Fryauff, Celena Allen, Alex Sherman, Zephyr Frank



Taylor, Joseph E., III, Krista Fryauff, Erik Steiner, Celena Allen, Alex Sherman, and Zephyr Frank. Follow the Money: A Spatial History of In-Lieu Programs for Western Federal Lands. Spatial History Project, CESTA, Stanford University, 1 June 2016. Web.

Download Data:

tabular data in nominal dollars

tabular data in 2020-adjusted dollars

The data behind these maps are available in the links above. See below for an explanation of our inflation-adjustment method. As an alternative to providing GIS shapefiles, we are providing a FIPS code for each county to facilitate their use in other mapping applications and an NHGIS GISJOIN field to be used with historical county boundary files from the NHGIS. All payment values are in dollars with the exception of the following codes: -999: County ineligible for specified program, NA: Data unavailable.

Note: This is an ongoing project and data are provided "as-is" with no guarantees that they are free of error. The amount of human effort in tracking down these data has been immense so inevitably there will be errors. To our knowledge this represents the most comprehensive federal payments database ever compiled. If you are able to contribute any additional data, please contact Jay Taylor.

Creative Commons License

These data are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial 4.0 International License. Please cite the project accordingly.

Fiscal Years:

Follow the Money maps flows of money from federal land management agencies to states and counties in the Far West, the area collectively known as the “public land states.” The goal is to illustrate the complex political economy of federal lands, especially as they impact the rural West, so we have decided to date payments based on when they arrived in the states and counties. Thus the maps reflect the fiscal year in which states and counties received money, not the fiscal year in which federal agencies made payments.

Accounting for Inflation:

All payment data for these maps begins as nomimal data, that is the actual funds paid in any given year. To make this data useful for historical analysis, however, we needed to transform nominal figures into statistically comparable data. In other words, we needed a way to account for inflation across time. We researched the various methods that economists have developed to determine rates of inflation across time. There are several indexes to choose from, including the Consumer Price Index, Consumer Bundle, GDP Per Capita. Ultimately we selected the GDP deflator because it was the best metric for understanding the value of money for governments that spent primarily on capital improvements and labor. According to, this "is an index number that represents the ‘average price’ of all the goods and services produced in the economy. It is a weighted number that is based on what is paid for the entirety of GDP, that is, for everything from a gallon of milk to a new Army helicopter. Changes in the deflator are a broad measure of inflation.” Thus we have adjusted county payments to 2018 dollars using the historical values published on

Main Map

The main map reveals an evolving picture of the geography of each payment program, and it enables viewers to compare each program across time. County payments in adjusted 2018 dollars are presented in a "5-class + zero” classification scheme. Zero values (no payments) and no data values (unavailable or ineligible) are first removed from the data; then all remaining values are classified using a five-class quantile scheme. The quantile scheme was chosen for its simplicity and interpretability in map series (Brewer et al 2002). Thus for any given program, a color consistently means the same thing across the entire time range in terms of raw dollars. Across all programs and the entire temporal range, that color consistently indicates the same percentile range. Thus a county colored yellow received a payment in lowest 20 percent of all payments for all counties in that program.

Advanced Map

The advanced map allows viewers to consider the history of a single county and to ask whether there are discernible geographic patterns to the ebbs and flows of high and low payments, regardless of the total value of payments. We again used a quantile scheme (six classes), calculated independently for each county after zero and no data values are removed. The result are maps that highlight the maximum, average, and minimum ranges for each county. For example, a county that is colored bright red means it received payments in that year for that program that was near the maximum it ever received for the specified program.

History of Created and De-created Counties:

Any attempt to map county payments across time must deal with the problem that the size and number of counties has changed, often quite rapidly. In the American West, the pace of county creation was especially frenetic in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Thereafter new counties emerged less frequently, but the process did not end until Colorado formed Broomfield County in 2001. To date the West has had only one case of county de-creation. This happened in 1915 when Chehalis County, Washington was renamed Grays Harbor and again in 1969 when Nevada’s Carson City absorbed Orsmby County.

Ideally, our maps would document these changes annually, but the project team quickly realized that it would be so time consuming to build twenty different county maps that would not have been able to program all the other features we wanted for the website. The team debated several ideas for how to deal with changing county geographies, including switching the county shape files each decade, but any option short of annual changes would still have forced us to explain the absence of new counties. We had to accept some compromise, so the solution that best freed our resources for other tasks was to rely on the 2010 map of counties and to leave blank any county not yet in existence. In the case of the switch from Chehalis County to Grays Harbor County and Ormsby County to Carson City County, we used the more recent county name throughout. For a full list of created and de-created counties see the data table linked below.

County Establishment Dates


Although historical county boundary GIS files are available from the good folks at NHGIS, we elected to simplify our presentation of the geographic data for web performance reasons. The boundaries presented are generalized rendering of the extents of each county in the eleven western states as of 2000, with the addition of Broomfield County, Colorado (formed in 2001). The tabular data download at the top of this page does include FIPS codes that can be matched to Census GIS files (after 1970) as well as NHGIS GISJOIN fields that allow you to map these data onto historical decennial county boundary files from the NHGIS.

Data Sources:

Although all the data pertains to revenues generated by federal lands and paid to state, county, or local public agencies, there is little transparency about how much public money went to public entities in any fiscal year. Even when data is readily available, we must still crosscheck federal figures against state and county audit reports to confirm the amounts—which do not always match—and to determine which fiscal year to report payments. This is because federal payments usually reach state and county governments in the next fiscal year. In the case of Montana, some payments only reached the counties two fiscal years later. Below is a program by program explanation of the main data sources.

Bankhead-Jones Farm Tenancy Act/National Grasslands:

This is the most elusive data in our project. Searches have been complicated by the fact that the Department of Agriculture, the Forest Service, the Department of the Interior, and the Bureau of Land Management have all administered payments at different times, and before 1977 none of them recorded payments in the the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Statistics, Report of the Forest Service, Department of Interior’s Annual Report, or the BLM’s Public Lands Statistics. Reporting could have improved after 1978 due to passage of the Payments in Lieu of Taxes program, which required states to enumerate funds received by counties from the revenue-sharing programs to qualify for federal reimbursement. These “Statement of Federal Land Payments” reports touched on all the payment programs, but states did not report Bankhead-Jones payments because the funds were distributed directly to range improvement districts and thus, for the purposes of the PILT reports, were treated as “pass through” monies not requiring reporting. Thus our meager Bankhead-Jones data comes from sporadic reports such as these by New Mexico for state and county audits.

Bureau of Land Management Material Sales:

Although Congress passed the law guiding materials sales in 1947, the BLM irregularly reported revenues to states and never to counties in its Public Lands Statistics and the regional annual publications, often titled BLM Facts. The longest record we current have comes from Colorado’s annual Statement of Federal Land Payments from 1986 to 2015. Most states deposit these payments in their general fund account or treat them as pass-through funds that do not require accounting in the annual Statement of Federal Land Payments they submit to the Department of Interior for PILT payments.

Federal Mineral Leasing Act:

Because of how this act was written, documenting county-level payments from the program can be a pretty boring exercise in moments because the law left it to the states to redistribute monies to mining counties as each state saw fit and many states decided that it made more sense to retain the revenues in general or special fund accounts. Thus while the Department of Interior sent reports to each state breaking down the source of mineral revenues at the county level, many states simply retained those revenues. We can best track changes in policy through the annual and biennial state audit reports. Utah, for example, was the first to made county distributions in 1934. Colorado followed the next year. The state annual and biennial audits sometimes provide all the data we need, but states tracked these payments in an uneven manner, some never recording the data and others inexplicably dropping these tables for decades at a time. There was also a general reform of accounting practices in the 1960s and 1970s that led auditors to lump all federal payments at the county or state level, making it impossible to tease apart until the advent of the PILT-driven Statement of Federal Land Payments reports, including this 2010 report from California. As we gather more of these, we should get a clearer view of the fiscal impact of the FML program, at least after 1978.

Forest Service Timber and Grazing Payments:

Although the Forest Service was the first to make payments for activities on federal lands, the agency and the Department of Agriculture are indisputably the least useful sources for finding county-level payment data. From the beginning their practice was to combine timber and grazing revenues, report them only at the state level, and round off figures to the nearest thousand dollars (see p.543). Thankfully, many western state annual and biennial audit reports track this data, and all states note these payments as part of the annual Statement Federal Land Payments reports that they submit to the Department of the Interior to qualify for PILT payments.

Land and Water Conservation Fund Grants:

Although the program has been administered by three different agencies since 1965, all the data is available from the State and Local Assistance Programs Office of the National Park Service.

Oregon & California Railroad Grant and Coos Bay Wagon Road Revested Lands:

For the period before 1947, neither federal, state, or county governments published data on the annual payments to the eighteen counties in western Oregon that contained portions of the O&C revested lands. Ultimately, we had to visit the National Archives and Records Administration’s Regional Archives in Seattle to document at least the schedule county payments for the period from 1917 to 1946. After 1947, the Bureau of Land Management did provide county-level data on annual payments in Public Lands Statistics. The county fiscal years were confirmed with reports provided by the Oregon Secretary of State’s office.

Since 2001 at the onset of the SRS program, O&C counties began receiving SRS payments in place of O&C and Forest Service payments. The payment formulas based on O&C and FS land areas were tallied separately, but were then lumped under the SRS program (and thus our maps). For a breakdown of payments from the Forest Service and the BLM to each O&C county in western Oregon each year of the SRS program, see this spreadsheet:

SRS Breakdown for O&C Counties, 2001-

Payments in Lieu of Taxes Act:

It is possible to get much of the PILT data from state auditor/controller reports, but we were fortunate to receive all the data for 1978 to 1998 from the Department of Interior’s Office of the Budget. There is also a DOI website that contains a page for the Payments in Lieu of Taxes program, and this site provides both state-level and county-level data for the years from 1999 to the present. Comparison of this data with state reports reveals that the federal figures are mostly accurate, but because Congress did not always fully fund the PILT program, federal figures must be crosschecked with state figures to confirm payment amounts and the fiscal year in which the payments arrived in counties.

Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act:

The Forest Service has a website dedicated to the SRS program. It provides a rolling window for payment data, currently running from 2005 to 2017, and a variety of reports, all of which must be viewed critically. The most useful are the ASR 10-3 reports, which provide county-level data on an annual basis for Titles I, II, & III payments. The problem with this data is that it does necessarily account for under appropriations by Congress, nor does it explain which counties have chosen to opt out of Title II & III payments. For that information we have consulted state data. The figures do not always align.

Taylor Grazing Act Section 3 & Section 15:

The Department of Interior was slow to report payments from the Taylor Grazing Act, the first notation being 1937. Then and later, however, the federal government only reported state-level data, usually not even separating Section 3 from Section 15 data. The DOI and, after 1946, the Bureau of Land Management did report this information to the states so that the monies could be distributed accurately to the counties, but the states themselves have not consistently reported this data in their annual and biennial audits. Typically a state will pay attention to these payments for a few cycles, then either combine the Section 3 & 15 payments for each county, or report the data only at the state level, or stop reporting altogether. In some cases we have had to turn to the county audit reports. In Nevada, these were reviewed at the State Library in Carson City. This may be how we will recover most of the data for this particularly important program. Things are not much better after 1978, when the Statement of Federal Land Payments reports begin to be filed by the states. In practice, the states have omitted Taylor Grazing Act payments, treating them as “pass-through” funds because they are sent directly to range improvement districts and thus are not counted against the PILT formula.