Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, Landglade County line road sign to the left of a road surrounded by tall trees and a grassy shoulder

Legislation would undermine Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program

A bill introduced by Tomahawk Senator Mary Felzkowski would make it easier for for groups or governments to sell public lands acquired with Knowles-Nelson dollars.

The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program is meant to conserve lands for public use indefinitely. Some in Wisconsin are pushing for that to change. Senate Bill 802, introduced by Tomahawk Senator Mary Felzkowski, would allow for the sale of public lands to potential developers. The same bill has also been introduced in the Assembly by Tomahawk Representative Calvin Callahan as Assembly Bill 852.

A news story by Katie Thoresen of WXPR Rhinelander offers an example of what this might look like in Langlade County for the Bob Lyle Boy Scout Camp, which was partially funded by Knowles-Nelson dollars.

“The new county board and/or committee would like to consider selling part of the property to use it to improve the other part of the property,” said County Administrator Jason Hilger.

Several environmental groups, including Gathering Waters, are opposed to the bill.

Gathering Waters’ Director of Strategic Initiatives, Charles Carlin, identifies two major issues with the bill. It would allow public lands to be taken out of conservation, which means potentially fewer conserved spaces for future generations. And it could undermine public trust in government-funded conservation programs.

“We’re talking about using a really blunt instrument in statewide legislation to solve a very narrow problem that would then create more problems all over the state,” said Carlin.

The Committee on Forestry, Parks and Outdoor Recreation holds a public hearing on the bill next Wednesday, during which Gathering Waters intends to give testimony in opposition to the bill.

Featured image by J. Stephen Conn, 2011.

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