Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program

Katie Thoresen/WXPR

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.

Katie Thoresen WXPR

The Legislature’s Republican-controlled budget committee has voted to extend Wisconsin’s land stewardship program for four years, rather than another decade as Democratic Gov. Tony Evers wanted.

The Joint Finance Committee also voted Thursday to provide half the funding for the stewardship program than Evers wanted.

Evers proposed $70 million a year in borrowing authority and Republicans approved $32 million annually.

Katie Thoresen/WXPR

For seven hours today Wednesday, the Wisconsin Joint Committee on Finance heard from people on their priorities for the state budget.

The budget hearing was held in Rhinelander at the Hodag Dome.

Representative Mark Born (R- Beaver Dam) said he was glad local representatives suggested the location.

Katie Thoresen/WXPR

Jeff Currie and his wife Ann took advantage of the early snow melt to get a look at the latest progress on the Great Headwaters Trails.

“I must say this is the first time we’ve taken a look at it,” said Jeff. “It’s definitely dramatic.”

They’re exploring the corner of Song Hill Lane and County Highway K, west of Phelps. That’s where the 8.5 mile stretch of trail from Conover ends and the work on the last segment of trail is beginning.

Over the winter, loggers came through and took down trees that are still strewn over where the path will wind through the woods.

ISTOCK/Wisconsin News Connection

Wisconsin residents have shown a renewed interest in outdoor activities during the pandemic, but conservation groups and some local governments say to keep public lands viable, a key program needs to be renewed.

Next month, Gov. Tony Evers unveils his proposed budget, and nature advocates hope it includes re-authorization of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, due to expire this summer.

Katie Thoresen/WXPR

People in the Wisconsin, and especially the Northwoods, want to see the state government continue to fund conservation and environmental projects in the state. That’s according to a recent public survey conducted by bi-partisan firms.

New Bridge Strategy and FM3 were hired by The Nature Conservancy to conduct the study.

The firms ask democrats and republicans around the state various question about the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund.

The program was created in 1989 to support a wide variety of outdoor projects from trail building to water quality. Goodfreephotos_com

Many natural areas and local recreation sites have been funded by the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program. Dozens of environmental and hunting and fishing groups have asked Governor Evers to push for the fund's renewal. The fund is up for renewal next year.

The fund was created in 1989. The program  gives the state spending authority to purchase land and easement additions to state properties. Stewardship dollars also support campsite, restroom and trail improvements.

Wisconsin DNR

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...

Trail Opens In Crandon Area

Oct 15, 2015
Jill Zagar photo

Last week the City of Crandon had a ribbon cutting ceremony for it’s new, two mile pedestrian and bicycle trail that was paid for by a combination of two federal grants.

JFC Trims Stewardship Fund, But Funding Remains

May 29, 2015

The  legislature's Joint Finance Committee said today it would not go along with Governor Walker's  proposal to stop land purchases in the Stewardship Program at least until 2028.  Republicans have long been concerned about the debt that's been building up from Stewardship land purchases.  However, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he was against a total moratorium.  The current state budget limits bonding to 50-million dollars a year.  The new budget measure would reduce that limit to 33-million a year through 2020.  

Poll Finds Bipartisan Support for Stewardship Program

Mar 19, 2015
Buck Vaughn / The Conservation Fund

A majority of Wisconsin voters support the Knowles Nelson Stewardship fund. That’s according to a new poll from the Nature Conservancy. 

Governor Scott Walker’s budget plan calls for freezing land acquisitions funded by the stewardship program until 2028. 

Buck Vaughn / The Conservation Fund

Two Republican legislators want to see major changes within the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands. 

The organization was founded in the mid 1800s to sell millions of acres of school trust fund lands.  It now maintains a loan fund for municipal projects, with the interest going to pay for school libraries.  BCPL also owns and manages about a small amount of land, about 80-thousand acres for timber. 

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.