The board of supervisors makes a one time contribution of $120,000 to the National Center for Public Lands Counties for public lands media exposure and development of a county profile
TULARE COUNTY –Tulare County is home to a portion of the national forest, making almost half of the county’s property federally owned. This federally owned land will soon be a part of a program that will analyze the best uses and aid in the recreation economy.
On March 21, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors authorized a one time contribution of $120,000 to a new program, the National Center for Public Lands Counties. The contribution is to get the program up and running which will allow public land counties an enhanced opportunity to demonstrate how prosperous public lands counties can be in the United States. Public lands counties are counties throughout the nation that have federally owned land within them.
The National Center of Public Lands Counties will utilize traditional and new media outlets to tell a county’s story and develop a detailed, individually researched and written county profile. The national center will be creating a center of research for public lands counties according to County Administrative Officer (CAO) Jason Britt.
“[It was created] so that there can be research and discussion about how public land could perhaps be utilized for more recreation economy and, and how we could promote more recreation on public land,” Britt said. “[It also asks], is there an opportunity to partner on public lands to improve tourism, or economic development or those types of things.”
According to the staff report, the National Center for Public Lands Counties is a program established by the National Association of Counties (NACo) and the Western Interstate Regions (WIR) board of directors. Through the program’s research, it will provide the opportunity for the public land to be exposed to others and possibly bring in additional resources. As it is a brand new program according to Britt, several other counties who have public lands counties are also paying into the program.
Within Tulare County the federal government owns and manages approximately 50% of lands. The National Center for Public Lands Counties will be researching and creating a profile for all 1,530,629 total acres of National Forest. Britt said how exactly the center is going to operate is still unknown because it is just getting started.
The counties who have federally owned and operated land receive Payments In Lieu of Taxes or PILT payments from the federal government. These are federal payments to local governments that help offset losses in property taxes due to nontaxable federal lands within their boundaries. Britt said this program will not only help with tourism and exposure, but it will help with their communications with the federal government.
“[The program will be] developing detailed county profiles, emphasizing the importance of recreation and tourism and being able to engage with the federal government on how important these PILT payments are to these counties who have a lot of federal lands in them,” Britt said.
According to the staff report, the California State Association of Counties (CSAC) is working with NACo to ensure that the National Center of Public Lands Counties appropriately emphasizes the importance of recreation economies and does not solely focus on extraction-based public lands. The National Center for Public Lands Counties will be reporting to NACo and WIR board of directors on its financial health and issue an annual report on research and progress. According to the staff report, if any additional funds are needed by the National Center of Public Lands Counties, then a request will be brought back and presented to the board of supervisors for approval.