The Union County Commissioners voted to join other Oregon counties in a lawsuit against the federal government to recover three years’ worth of payments in lieu of taxes (PILT).

At Wednesday’s meeting, the commissioners spoke in open session about the PILT lawsuit, which 29 of the 36 Oregon counties — including Baker, Wallowa and Umatilla — have decided to opt in, joining other states across the country.

Payments in lieu of taxes help local governments carry out such vital services as firefighting and police protection, construction of public schools and roads, and search and rescue operations, according to a Montana Association of Counties website.

According to the Department of Interior website, the payments are made annually to offset losses in property taxes due to non-taxable federal lands, such as lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management, the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (all bureaus of the Interior Department), the U.S. Forest Service (part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture) and for federal water projects and some military installations.

PILT payments were not received for 2015, 2016 and 2017. Those states with federal lands have filed lawsuits, wanting the money the counties are owed.

See more in Friday's edition of The Observer.