Tiffany Questions More Borrowing For Stewardship Fund; Nature Conservancy Disagrees
Wisconsin Republican legislators are questioning bonding for more land under the state's Knowles- Nelson Stewardship Program. State Senator Tom Tiffany of Hazelhurst and Senator Duey Strobel say the state should take a pause in allocating any more money for the fund. The fund is used by the state to purchase recreational and environmental property. Tiffany and Strobel are on the budget-writing Joint Committee on Finance.
Tiffany says the purchases are beneficial but they do come at a cost...
"...The Stewardship program has a significant amount of debt that is overhanging it, almost a billion dollars that is owed in interest and principal for the Stewardship purchases that have been made over the last couple of decades..."
Tiffany says a 10-year re-authorization could add another $500 million dollars of interest and principal. Tiffany says a priority should be funding roads and schools first...
"...I really think the Stewardship program is a want, not a need. It's really important that we fund our needs first and make sure we're not putting the next generation further in debt..."
Tiffany says Governor Evers proposed renewing the program for two years. He says almost 20 percent of the land in Wisconsin is publically-owned with a higher percentage than that in the Northwoods.
Matt Dallman of Minocqua is the deputy state director of the Nature Conservancy has a different view. He says the value of recreation areas like the Turtle-Flambeau, Willow and Rainbow Flowages is not necessarily dollars and cents. He says the value of nature brings a different perspective...
"..That is a real focus on dollars, the here and now. If you think about the other benefits that we get from protecting this land, from clean water to clean air, recreational values, human health values. The timber coming off these lands, if you put all that value together, it would put the debt service value pretty small..."
Dallman says state residents are contributing about $15 a year the lands in the Stewardship fund. He says much of the land in the north that was former private timberland was purchased using the fund.
We'll have longer interviews with both Senator Tiffany and Matt Dallman Saturday morning on WXPR Saturday Edition at 8:35 a.m.