Cook County gets update on federal payments for land inside BWCA
Kalli Hawkins

Cook County gets update on federal payments for land inside BWCA

Cook County officials were informed May 12 by representatives from the U.S. Forest Service that the appraised value of the 242,590 acres of Boundary Waters wilderness within Cook County was at just over $194 million.

The county will receive less than the previous amount of approximately $2.25 million from the federal government under that appraisal in the form of payment in lieu of taxes, according to county officials. The annual payments to the county are yet to be determined, however, in 2019 there was speculation among county assessors, elected officials, county attorneys and other staff that the funding would be reduced.

The most recent appraisal of the BWCA was done in 2009, when Cook County annual payments increased from just over $704,000 to $2.25 million.

In 1948, United States lawmakers passed the Thye-Blatnik Act to buy resorts and private lands in what would eventually be named the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.

The bill also provides payments in-lieu-of-taxes (PILT) to Cook, Lake and St. Louis counties for federal wilderness land to make up for lost private property taxes. A valuation process is completed every 10 years to determine how much each county receives through this piece of legislation.

St. Louis, Lake and Cook Counties found out in May the valuation of federal lands inside the BWCA.

WTIP’s Kalli Hawkins checked in with Cook County Assessor Bob Thompson and shares this report about the BWCA payments from the federal government to the three counties in northeastern Minnesota. Audio below.