Utah's 29 counties will soon be splitting $9.5 million in government payments to compensate for federal land in their jurisdictions on which no taxes are paid, officials said Wednesday.

The payments-in-lieu-of-taxes money is authorized under a 1976 law and administered by the U.S. Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management."These payments provide much needed support for local communities in the state," said Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah.

"It is one of the few federal government programs with no strings attached. The funds go directly to the counties and can be used for immediate needs within those counties," said Garn.

The money is not evenly divided among Utah counties, but is proportioned based on a complex formula that pays a set amount for each acre of federal land combined with a population factor that limits payments for sparsely inhabited counties.

"Box Elder and Tooele counties will be the top two" for the payments, said Brent Gardner, director of the Utah Association of Counties.

"Box Elder has a lot of federal land, plus a fairly high population, comparatively speaking, much higher than, say, Garfield County."

Tooele also has a large amount of federal land and relatively high population, he said.

Urban counties like Weber and Salt Lake, on the other hand, will get "just a minimal amount," he said.