the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship program

For 30 years, the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program has been protecting our lakes and streams, securing critical wildlife habitat, and providing world-class recreational opportunities. Let’s keep it that way.


joint finance votes to renew knowles-nelson for four years

The Wisconsin Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance voted on June 10th, 2021 to renew the Stewardship Program for four years. While the vote essentially maintains the current funding of the Stewardship Program, the length of the renewal—only four years—falls far short of the 10-year reauthorization sought by advocates of the program. A four-year time horizon will limit the amount of project planning and execution that can be accomplished on increasingly popular sites like the Ice Age Trail and local parks and bike trails. Demand for outdoor recreation has skyrocketed over the past year and is only likely to increase in the years ahead.

This outcome didn’t reach the long-term goal that we were shooting for, but let’s take a moment to appreciate all of the hard work that went into this hard-fought campaign. Thousands and thousands of individuals across Wisconsin took the time to contact their legislators in recent months—writing emails, creating customized postcards, and picking up the phone to let lawmakers know how important land and water conservation is to local communities and to our state’s future. With your help, Team Knowles-Nelson has grown to more than 70 organizations representing a wide range of interests.
Our coalition is a remarkable example of how solution-focused organizing and advocacy can produce results, even in the most difficult political climates. Our state is often hamstrung by partisanship. Our movement, by contrast, demonstrates that we can bring together Wisconsinites from all walks of life and across the political spectrum to advocate for protecting our land and water as well as building the essential outdoor recreation infrastructure that enables residents and visitors to get out there and enjoy our state.
We extend our appreciation to legislators who worked behind the scenes to try and build consensus with their colleagues and those who spoke up in public on behalf of Knowles-Nelson. We also thank Governor Evers and his staff for their thoughtful consideration of the Stewardship Program and their ambitious proposal to renew the program for 10 years and restore much of the funding that has been cut from the program over the last decade. Without champions in both parties, we would not have the opportunity to celebrate this success for conservation in Wisconsin.
$1.3 Billion
invested in Wisconsin's land and water
of Wisconsinites live within five miles of Knowles-Nelson project
$2 billion
annual value of nature's services on Knowles-Nelson lands
Wisconsin Acres Protected by Knowles-Nelson
grants to support local parks, trails, and campgrounds
112 million
annual visitors to Wisconsin
annual cost per Wisconsin resident
grants to support Wisconsin Boating facilities
acres protected by non-profit land trusts

see where knowles-nelson works in your community

Knowles-Nelson in the News

A child runs down a wooded path at Lake Farm County Park.
Lake Farm Park, Dane County, WI. Photograph by Mindy Petersen.

How Does Knowles-
Nelson Work?

Public-Private partnerships support land and water conservation throughout Wisconsin

Knowles-Nelson grants awarded to local governments and nonprofits, like land trusts, are matching grants. This means that every dollar that the state invests in a conservation project is matched by another dollar (or more) contributed by local governments or generous individuals.

Knowles-Nelson funds support land purchases, trail building, boat launches, playgrounds, picnic shelters, and more. Check out our impact stories for examples of some of the thousands of projects around Wisconsin that have been supported by the Stewardship Program.

But there’s a lot of work left to be done. Wisconsin lags behind its neighbors Michigan and Minnesota in the amount of land that we protect and the amount of money that we invest in public lands each year.

Wisconsin needs a robust investment in both land acquisition and land management in order to meet the challenges of climate change, to provide accessible recreation for all Wisconsin residents, and to support Wisconsin wildlife.

Wolf River in Autumn

Research Topics

Curious to learn more about Knowles-Nelson? Explore our in-depth research on how the program works and the benefits it provides to Wisconsin.

Image by Gary Shackelford, 2012.

Team Knowles Nelson on a conservancy site

Join Team

We're a diverse coalition of more than fifty organizations and thousands of individuals all working together to protect Wisconsin's land, water, wildlife, and our way of life.

If there’s a natural place in Wisconsin that is special to you, chances are the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program has made it better.

That’s why we’re working together to make sure that Knowles-Nelson will keep working for Wisconsin.

We’re Team Knowles-Nelson, a diverse coalition of conservation organizations, sporting groups, businesses, and individuals committed to taking care of our state. If you love Wisconsin’s land and water, then Team Knowles Nelson is for you. We’ll keep you updated on our advocacy work, share success stories, and make it easy for you to reach your legislators with the right messages at the right time.

Across the entire state of Wisconsin, Knowles-Nelson provides funds to protect land, build trails, clean up our waterways, and improve our parks. Non-profit conservation organizations, local governments, and the state of Wisconsin all use Knowles-Nelson funds to care for our land and water. Prairies in the Driftless region, forests Up North, the Ice Age Trail, and the neighborhood parks in our backyards all benefit from Knowles-Nelson support.

But if we don’t speak up, Knowles-Nelson will go away. Join the Team and we’ll work together to keep Wisconsin beautiful for our kids and grandkids.

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