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Budget Committee Approves Four-Year Renewal of Knowles Nelson Stewardship Program

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Katie Thoresen/WXPR
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A funding tool used to protect land, build trails, and manage forests would be renewed for another four years in the next Wisconsin State Budget.

As WXPR reported last week, the Legislature’s Republican-controlled budget committee voted to extend the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.

Governor Evers budget proposal called for a $70 million dollar a year for the next 10 years renewal of the Knowles Nelson Stewardship Program.

The Legislature’s Republican-controlled budget committee has voted to extend Wisconsin’s land stewardship program for four years at $32 million a year.

The money keeps funding at the levels it’s been operating at for the last few years, but its nearly a third of the $86 million it was once funded at.

Charlie Carlin is director of strategic initiatives at Gathering Waters, Wisconsin’s Alliance of Land Trusts. He also headed up the “Team Knowles Nelson” effort to the get the program renewed.

“We really appreciate committee on finance voted to renew Knowles Nelson Stewardship Program. The Knowles Nelson provides just critical state funding to care for our land and water and build outdoor recreation infrastructure,” said Carlin.

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Credit Katie Thoresen/WXPR
One million dollars from the Knowles Nelson Stewardship Program was used to help rebuild Saxon Harbor.

Though appreciative of the renewal, Carlin says it will come with new challenges for groups and governments hoping to use the funding.

While the funding levels remain the same, Carli  said there are restrictions on what the money can be used toward.

The DNR won’t be able to allocate as much money in the past toward land easements or acquisitions. He says in particular it will hurt working forest easements.

“One, it’s a solid base for our forest products industry, one of our most important economic drivers in the state. Two, those lands provide access for hunting, for snowmobile trails, for hiking and mountain biking trails. It’s going to be a lot more difficult for the DNR to do their work in the Northwoods going forward.”

The other challenge is the four-year renewal. Many projects and counties plan out projects for years or even decades down the road.

“Those organizations really count on long-term predictable funding in order to then go out and launch successful fundraising campaigns or seeking matching federal grants or other sources of funding, something like that,” said Carlin.

The renewal will be part of the budget that still needs to be approved by the full state legislature and Governor Tony Evers.

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