Fishing off a pier. Outdoor recreation increased during the pandemic, and state funding from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program can help increase and maintain outdoor facilities.

Outdoor recreation surged during pandemic, but will funding follow?

Report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum says renewed interest in the outdoors signals need to boost funding for public lands.

As COVID put a halt to indoor activities, Wisconsinites headed outdoors “in record numbers,” reports Chris Hubbach of the Wisconsin State Journal.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum has released a new report about this jump in outdoor recreation, citing data from the Department of Natural Resources that shows increases in the sale of state parks passes, fishing licenses, deer hunting licenses, and sporting goods equipment.

“You could just look at any park last summer. The state parks at times were really crowded with people,” says Jason Stein, research director for Wisconsin Policy Forum, and lead author of the new report.

Despite the popularity of its outdoor attractions, Wisconsin “ranks in the bottom half of all states when it comes to overall funding for parks and recreation and second to last — ahead of only Alabama — in per-capita state spending.”

The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program is one source of such state spending on parks, trails, and other facilities. Governor Tony Evers has proposed a reauthorization of Knowles-Nelson for 10 years at an increased $70 million per year in funding. This reauthorization will be debated in the legislature as they work on the 2021-2023 state budget.

Learn more about Knowles-Nelson and the governor’s proposal here.

Featured image by Mara Koenig of USFWS Midwest Region, 2016.

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