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.


your resource for wisconsin's stewardship program

The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program is one of Wisconsin’s proudest achievements. Since 1989, Wisconsinites have come together to care for our state’s land and water as well as build the trails, campgrounds, and boat launches that allow us to get out and enjoy Wisconsin. Knowles-Nelson is a rare bipartisan success story. It is an invaluable program that will continue to thrive only with a strong community of supporters who ensure that Wisconsin’s legislators continue to prioritize protected land, clean water, and access to outdoor recreation for every Wisconsin resident. is a project of Team Knowles Nelson. We are a dedicated coalition of environmental conservation organizations, fishing and hunting advocates, trail builders, bicycle enthusiasts, and thousands of committed individuals. Our coalition is a remarkable example of how solution-focused organizing and advocacy can produce results, even in the most difficult political climates.

We offer as a comprehensive resource on Wisconsin’s Stewardship Program. Read about the economics of environmental conservation, learn about individual Knowles-Nelson projects, keep up on the latest Knowles-Nelson news, explore interactive maps, and join our team to ensure that we protect Wisconsin’s land and water so that nature can care for us.

$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

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.

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 badge with a bird taking flight.
People from Team Knowles Nelson holding hands up high in a chain celebrating 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.

Knowles-Nelson in the News

Team Knowles Nelson badge with a bird taking flight.

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