Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program - canoeing in a marsh

Legislation would make it easier to sell off Wisconsin natural areas and parks

A bill recently introduced by Republican state lawmakers would loosen requirements for selling land bought with Knowles-Nelson funds.

A bill introduced to the Wisconsin Assembly Committee on Forestry Parks and Outdoor Recreation by Rep. Calvin Callahan (R – Tomahawk) that would make it easier for property owners to sell lands currently protected by the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.

Through the Stewardship Program, landowners preserve natural areas that improve the state’s water quality and offer opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Two local radio stations reported on the bill, interviewing Rep. Callahan, as well as staff at Gathering Waters and Groundswell Conservancy. Susan Bence reports for WUWM 89.7 FM and Nate Wegehaupt for WORT FM on the legislation. Listen to the coverage here and here.

Gathering Waters testified against the bill, stating that decades of conservation successes could be undermined.

“To be successful, this work relies on the generosity and trust of landowners. It’s a story of collaboration. We oppose the bill because it diminishes trust of donors and trust of local governments. The understanding among all the parties is that the land is conserved forever. This bill ends that,” said Charles Carlin, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Gathering Waters.

Eight groups have registered against the bill. The League of Wisconsin Municipalities is the only organization that has registered in support of the bill at this time.

Featured image by the Bureau of Land Management, 2017.

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