Parent and child along a river, near a forest, in Wisconsin. Funding restrictions and a shorter renewal of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program will make it more difficult to protect such landscapes across Wisconsin.

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

A funding tool used to protect land, build trails, and manage forests is approved for renewal for four years in the next Wisconsin State Budget.

In a story for WXPR radio station, Katie Thoreson shares more details about the Joint Finance Committee’s vote on the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.

The Republican-controlled committee voted to reauthorize Knowles-Nelson, but at $32 million per year for the next four years, instead of Governor Evers’ proposal to fund the program at $70 million for the next decade.

“We really appreciate that the committee on finance voted to renew the Knowles Nelson Stewardship Program,” says Charlie Carlin, Director of Strategic Initiatives for Gathering Waters. “Knowles Nelson provides just critical state funding to care for our land and water and build outdoor recreation infrastructure.”

However, the low funding level and short timespan of renewal will create “new challenges for groups and governments hoping to use the funding,” Carlin notes. For example, the renewal has lower levels of funding for DNR land acquisition and easements, which will make it difficult for the state to conserve working forests and meet Governor Evers’ plan to protect an additional 125,000 acres of Wisconsin woodlands.

The four-year renewal will also present a challenge for organizations who “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 seek matching federal grants or other sources of funding,” said Carlin.

The rest of the state legislature, as well as Governor Tony Evers, still need to review and approve the budget this summer before it is fully completed.

Featured image by Bob Wick with the Bureau of Land Management, 2017.

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