Frequently asked questions about the Watershed Management
How much money does a town get and for how long?
All land in the PILOT program is valued by the Department of Revenue following
their guidelines for assessing State Owned Lands. The value set by DOR
is then multiplied by the local commercial property tax rate. If land
values ever depreciate or the tax rate drops, the payment does not decrease.
The PILOT payment is guaranteed and made annually. Click here to see the 2011 PILOT amounts.
What is the difference between Watershed Management
PILOT and other state Payments in Lieu of Taxes?
1. MWRA ratepayers pay the bill. Funds for the Watershed Management
PILOT payments come from Massachusetts
Water Resources Authority (MWRA) rate payers who use the reservoir
waters; the MWRA provides funding to the DCR to make PILOT payments
to the watershed towns. Unlike other PILOT programs for state-owned
lands, which are disbursed through the State's Local Aid program ("Cherry
Sheets") and are subject to legislative appropriation (currently 76%
of full value), the Watershed Management program is paid in full directly
to each community. The DCR payment does not appear on the Cherry Sheet.
2. DCR PILOT utilizes the local commercial tax rate. The PILOT
which is distributed through the "Cherry Sheet" is based on a statewide
average of residential tax rates calculated by The Department of Revenue
Division of Local Services. Watershed Management PILOT is required
to utilize each community's commercial tax rate in calculating the PILOT
3. The payment can never be less than the previous year. MGL
c. 59, §5G states that Watershed Management PILOT can never be less
than the previous year's payment. This "hold harmless" clause provides
the watershed communities the security of level funding even if a drop
in valuation or tax rate combines to lower the calculated PILOT. This
requirement will provide over $650,000 to watershed communities in
What is the difference between the Watershed Management
PILOT Program and Chapter 61 land?
The Watershed Management PILOT program land is owned by the Commonwealth
of Massachusetts. Chapter 61 land is privately owned with property taxes
abated 95% in exchange for a commitment to keep the land in active forest
use for 10 year intervals. The Chapter 61 program is managed by the forestry section of the DCR.
Is the per-acre PILOT payment the same in all 30
No, there is a wide variation in the per-acre PILOT payment from
community to community. This is due to varying real estate prices, which
are a key factor in determining land valuation, and local tax rates. Click
here to see the 2011 PILOT amounts.
What kind of activities are allowed on Watershed
Management PILOT land?
The primary goal of the DCR Division of Water Supply Protection
is to assure the highest possible water quality. This means that it is
essential that the land remain in as pristine and undisturbed condition
as possible. Public access is allowed on all but the most critical lands.
In order to protect the water supply, activities are generally limited
to passive recreation such as hiking, nature study and in some areas,
fishing and hunting are permitted. Please visit the public access
web page for more information about public access to DCR Division
of Water Supply Protection land.
What are the economic benefits of Watershed Management
All lands in a community pose some financial burden to that community.
This burden is dependent on the type of land use. Examples of community
costs are school systems, roadways, utilities, police and fire services.
Since PILOT lands will always remain in their natural state and are actively
maintained by the DCR, they pose minimal financial burden on the host
The American Farmland
Trust has been conducting studies that investigate the financial burden
of major land use categories in Massachusetts and throughout the country.
These studies compare the average dollar cost of services for residential
land, commercial/industrial land, and farm/forest/open land to the property
tax dollar collected. In the AFT "Cost of Community Service Studies" Fact Sheet, it is
reported that farm/forest/open land cost only $0.35 of each tax dollar,
commercial/industrial cost $0.29 for each dollar collected, while residential
land yielded a net loss, costing $1.16 for each tax dollar collected.
DCR lands actually provide a better return than the Farm/Forest/Open
land from these studies because DCR performs most of the maintenance and
policing of its own lands. Further, most DCR watershed land is open for
general, passive use by local residents, thus supplementing town conservation
land while still yielding PILOT payments.