Division of Realty
Mountain-Prairie Region
Shared Revenue Payments


The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is the principal agency of the Federal Government charged with the responsibility for conserving, developing, utilizing and protecting the Nation's fish and wildlife resources for the enjoyment of all people. This mission is accomplished through a multitude of programs, some of which require the acquisition and administration of land.


Since 1935, the FWS has made revenue sharing payments to counties for refuge land under its administration. Counties received 25 percent of net revenues from the sale of various products or

privileges from refuge lands located within the county. The result was that where no revenue was generated from refuge lands, the county received no payment. The Refuge Revenue Sharing Act was amended in 1964 to provide for a payment of the greater of 25 percent of net receipts, or 3/4 of 1 percent of the adjusted purchase price for purchased land. The 25 percent of net receipts was retained for public domain lands. As before, the payment could be used only for roads and schools.

Beginning with Fiscal Year 1976, there were shortages in the revenue sharing fund and payments to counties had to be reduced accordingly. Partly because of this situation the Refuge Revenue

Sharing Act was again amended in 1978 by Public Law 95-469. Important changes were: (1) Congress is authorized to appropriate funds to make up any shortfall in the revenue sharing fund; (2) all lands administered solely or primarily by the FWS (not just refuges) qualify for revenue sharing; and (3) payments to units of local government can be used for any governmental purpose. The provisions of the revenue sharing act are discussed in this brochure.

How does acquisition of private land by the FWS affect the local real property tax situation?

Lands acquired by the FWS are removed from the tax rolls; however, under provisions of the Revenue Sharing Act, as amended, the county or other local unit of government receives an annual revenue sharing payment which often equals or exceeds the amount that would have been collected from taxes if in private ownership.

Why doesn't the FWS pay taxes?

The United States Government, like city, township, county and state governments, is exempt from taxation.

How is the payment of FWS lands computed?

Payments of purchased land are based on the greatest of: 3/4 of 1 percent of the fair market value; 25 percent of net receipts; or $.75 per acre. Public domain land (has never been on the tax rolls) continues to share on the basis of 25 percent of net receipts.

What FWS lands are included under provisions of the Act?

All lands administered solely or primarily by the FWS such as National Wildlife Refuges, National Fish Hatcheries, Waterfowl Production Areas, Administrative sites, as well as Laboratories and Research Centers are covered. Public Domain lands under primary jurisdiction of the FWS are also included.

Are payments for Public Domain lands computed on the same basis?

No. If there is income from these lands, a payment of 25 percent of the net income is made. These lands are also entitlement lands under the Payment in Lieu of Taxes Act (Public Law 94-565) administered by the Bureau of Land Management.

Is there a minimum payment?

Payments may not be less than $.75 per acre for all purchased and donated land. There is no minimum payment for Public Domain land since income from these lands will determine payment.

Do payments remain the same year after year?

Just as assessments on private land change, FWS areas will be reappraised by the Service at least once every 5 years.

When are the payments made?

Payments are usually made the first part of each calendar year.

Who receives the payment?

The payment is received by the unit of local government that levies and collects general purpose real property taxes. These may be counties, townships, cities, etc.

How is the payment distributed?

The unit of local government is responsible to pass through funds to sub-units of local government incurring a loss of tax revenue by reason of the existence of FWS lands.

Are there any restrictions on how the money may be spent?

The money may be used for any governmental purpose.

Where does the FWS get the money for the revenue sharing payment?

The revenue sharing fund consists of net income from the sale of products or privileges. Some examples are timber sales, grazing fees, permit fees, oil and gas royalties, etc.

What if there is not enough money in the fund to cover the payments?

Congress is authorized to appropriate money to make up the deficit. Should Congress fail to appropriate such funds, payments to units of local government will be reduced accordingly.

What association is there between Refuge Revenue Sharing Act and other Federal Revenue Sharing payments to local governments?

The Refuge Revenue Sharing Act relates entirely to FWS Land. It is funded and administered separately from other Federal revenue sharing measures.

Last updated: March 31, 2010