Group repairing a walkway over a creek


Do you love Wisconsin's land and water? Then Team Knowles Nelson is for you!

We are made up of thousands of individuals and dozens of organizations committed to ensuring that the state of Wisconsin funds vital land and water conservation efforts. Together, we delivered thousands of messages and phone calls to legislators’ offices during the 2019 budget debates. We helped to secure a two-year extension of the Stewardship Program. Now we have our sights set on a 10-year authorization of the program and restoring funding cuts that were made over the last decade.

So what does Team Knowles Nelson do? We advocate for the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, because it’s Wisconsin’s best land and water conservation program. We research land and water conservation around the state. We promote the good work that nonprofits and local governments do with Stewardship funds. We talk to legislators, the governor, and our friends and neighbors about the importance of caring for Wisconsin’s land and water.

What happens when you join Team Knowles Nelson? We’ll keep you updated on our work and let you know when it’s time to speak up for the Stewardship Program. We make it easy to connect with your legislators at the right time and with the right message. Every single voice counts. Together, we’ll make sure that the state of Wisconsin provides the funding we need to protect Wisconsin’s land, water, and wildlife.

governor evers responds to our call and calls for a 10-year authorization of Stewardship

We asked Governor Evers to include 10 years of funding for Knowles-Nelson in the 2021 state budget and to restore funding cuts. the governor included that reauthorization in his state budget proposal and asked for a significant increase in funding.


On Wednesday, March 10th Governor Evers released the following statement regarding the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.

My Fellow Wisconsinites,

On behalf of Wisconsinites everywhere, I hope this message finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy. On February 16, I delivered my second biennial budget address and laid out my Badger Bounceback agenda to help make sure Wisconsin can bounce back from this pandemic better than we were before. Recalling your past concerns, I would like to provide you with an update on my plan to support conservation in Wisconsin. 

During its three-decade existence, the Warren Knowles-Gaylord Nelson Stewardship Program has been a popular and successful way to preserve land for future generations. The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship program has a demonstrated history of improving access to outdoor recreation opportunitiesprotecting critical habitats and environmental healthimproving water quality, and building flood resilience, as well as supporting state and local economic development. My budget proposes reauthorizing the Stewardship program for another 10 years with $70 million in annual bonding authority. This proposal, along with other critical investments in conservation and forestry, allows Wisconsin to continue its proud legacy of conserving our natural resources and promoting sustainable economic growth.

Our state’s history and our traditions—from the Indigenous people who were the first stewards of the land, to our farmers who’ve been the backbone of our state for generations, to our outdoor recreation and tourism economy—demand that we embrace a legacy of conservation. We don’t have to choose between mitigating climate change, protecting our environment, and good-paying jobs and economic development. Wisconsin is ready for bold and urgent solutions that will stop treating these goals as mutually exclusive—we can and will do both.

Just as we asked for your help in crafting the budget through our listening sessions, we also need your help to get this budget over the finish line. If you haven’t done so already, please enter your home address here to find the contact information for both your state senator and state representative and write these officials to share your story and why you support our Badger Bounceback budget proposal.  

 Stay healthy, stay safe, and stay in touch.  


Tony Evers


Hiker overlooking the landscape

About the
Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program

For 30 years, the Stewardship Program has protected Wisconsin’s land, water, and wildlife.

The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program is a tremendously successful environmental conservation program that protects our lakes and streams, conserves working forests, secures critical wildlife habitats, and provides countless opportunities for outdoor recreation both close to home and across Wisconsin.

But most people have never heard of Knowles-Nelson. The program works behind the scenes to make it possible for conservation organizations and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to purchase land, to build trails, to maintain our parks and boating facilities, and to take care of our shorelines. The program is up for renewal in 2021, and our legislators need to know that caring for Wisconsin’s land and water is a top priority.

Named after two former Wisconsin governors — Warren Knowles, a Republican, and Gaylord Nelson, a Democrat — the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program honors Wisconsin’s bipartisan commitment to land and water protection.

Since its inception in 1989, Republicans and Democrats across the state have championed the program because our land, water, and wildlife don’t have political affiliations. We all want Wisconsin to be a healthy, thriving place to live, work, and play. According to recent polls, 9 out of 10 Wisconsinites support the Stewardship Program!

The governor and the legislature must renew the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program in the 2021 state budget or we’ll lose this vital source of funding. We’re asking them to reauthorize the program for 10 years and to restore funding that has been cut from the program over the last decade.

Conservation Hike

Research & resources

In-depth analyses of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program

Knowles-Nelson grants work behind the scenes to protect public lands and build the amenities that help us all enjoy nature both close to home and far away. Too often, it’s hard to see the cumulative impact of the Stewardship Program. That’s where our research comes in. We look at the big picture of Wisconsin’s investments in land and water conservation, and we bring that big picture to life with detailed examples of Knowles-Nelson projects from around the state. The research shows how land and water conservation is a key investment in green infrastructure, the natural systems that clean our air and water, nourish our souls, and provide wildlife habitat. We quantify the services provided by nature so that policymakers can understand the enormous long-term value of investing in Wisconsin’s land and water. And we look at how time spent in nature improves our mental and physical health.

Now is the Time to Act

Please, speak up now for Wisconsin’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program. The governor and state legislators must act to renew and strengthen the program or it will soon expire. Design personalized postcards that show your love of Wisconsin’s land and water, and we’ll print and mail them to the governor and your legislators. It’s free, and it’s more important than ever to let our elected officials know that people all across our state are committed to caring for our land, water, and wildlife. When you write your legislators, we’ll also sign you up for Team Knowles-Nelson so that you can receive updates on our work and alerts that let you know how to speak up for Stewardship at the right time, with the right messages, directed to the right people.

grants to support the Ice Age Trail
Wisconsin acres protected by Knowles-Nelson
$350 Million
in grants to nonprofits and local governments
of Wisconsin land is conserved
Grants to support local parks, trails and campgrounds
$2 billion
annual economic value of Knowles-Nelson lands
grants to support Wisconsin Boating facilities
annual cost per Wisconsin resident
$24 Billion
forestry industry supported

Thanks! We'll keep you in the loop about Team Knowles Nelson.