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Federal payments from BWCA could impact Cook County levy

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. WTIP file photo
Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. WTIP file photo

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.

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.

This year, as of April 24, St. Louis, Lake and Cook Counties are still awaiting word on the valuation of federal lands inside the BWCA.

A significant change in the valuation of property or a change in the calculation of the volume of property could have a significant impact on federal dollars received, according to Cook County Administrator Jeff Cadwell.

If there are changes to how much money Cook County receives from the federal government thorough the Thye-Blatnik payments, it could have a significant impact on the local levy and services the county provides, Cadwell said. 

WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs spoke with Cadwell about Cook County’s PILT payments specific to the BWCA.

Also in this conversation, Friedrichs and Cadwell discuss public comments made during the April 23 meeting of the Cook County Board of Commissioners.