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Walker's Budget Would Freeze Stewardship Program, Weaken Natural Resources Board

Environmental groups are among those reacting to Governor Scott Walker’s proposed changes to the DNR Stewardship Program.

Knowles-Nelson Stewardship funds are borrowed to purchase land for conservation and public use. 

Walker wants to freeze the program.  Instead, the state’s borrowing power will go into the transportation fund.

Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters Executive Director Kerry Schuman thinks that’s a mistake.  She says the state’s ability purchase land for conservation is a huge value to the public.    

“Public lands are a really important part of Wisconsin’s economy. They bolster the 12 billion dollar outdoor recreation industry, the 4 billion dollar hunting and fishing industry, and the 20 billion dollar forestry industry. Those are all supported by the Stewardship program.”

Schuman also says Walker’s proposal to make the Natural Resources Board merely advisory...would make decisions over the state’s resources more political.    

Many current board members were surprised by the plan.  Gary Zimmer of Laona says he hopes the board would be able to continue its role of incorporating direct citizen input and testimony into policy decisions.    

“It definitely is very important to have the public have that opportunity. And they do in a lot of ways with the department, but this gives them a little further role.”

Zimmer says board members put significant time and energy into understanding the issues and attending public hearings. 

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