Spiderwort in bloom. Natural resources like these thrive on lands protected by the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.

Pandemic highlights need to bolster popular stewardship fund

Knowles-Nelson is important bipartisan tool to conserve Wisconsin's natural heritage and support local economies.

In a column for Madison.com, Bill Berry writes that, “If the Covid-19 pandemic taught us anything, it’s that Wisconsin’s diverse natural resources are essential to our well-being.”

Our state’s parks and trails have been a boon during the pandemic, giving residents “the multiple physical, mental and spiritual benefits that nature provided at a time when we needed them most.” These lands also provide enormous economic returns from tourism, timber harvest, and environmental services like carbon storage and flood mitigation.

But many of these invaluable places wouldn’t exist without the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program. Now, Berry argues that it is more important than ever to look to the future and renew Knowles-Nelson.

“Looking for something we can all agree on?” Berry asks. “Eighty-eight percent of Republicans said in a 2020 survey they want the program to continue, as did 90% of independents and 97% of Democrats.”

The popularity of the program underscores the high demand for its services. “Demand from local governments for matching grants to fund development and infrastructure of parks, trails and other natural assets has far exceeded budgeted amounts in the past,” Berry says. “If our communities learned anything last year, it was just how precious and necessary those resources are.”

“With importance of these resources ever more apparent, legislators have a chance to do good for state residents today and in the future,” Berry notes. “Future generations will thank us for the investments we make today.”

Featured image by Joshua Mayer, 2010.

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