Prairie at Standing Cedars Community Land Conservancy, a site protected using the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.

Public support needed for parks and land protection in Wisconsin

Funding from Knowles-Nelson has been key in protecting natural areas in the St. Croix River watershed.

Greg Seitz of St. Croix 360 advocates for renewal of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, noting its namesakes’ roots in the St. Croix Valley, and the many projects that have been completed in the St. Croix River watershed thanks to Knowles-Nelson.

Both Warren Knowles and Gaylord Nelson were born within the St. Croix River watershed. As governor of Wisconsin, Knowles “led efforts to clean up pollution in Wisconsin rivers and streams, provided funds to expand recreational lands, and established the annual Governor’s Fishing Opener.” After serving his own term as governor, Gaylord Nelson went on to the US Senate, where he not only established Earth Day, but also championed the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act, which included protection for his beloved St. Croix.

Having the Knowles-Nelson program named after them is a fitting honor for these sons of the St. Croix, especially since Stewardship funds have protected “at least 5,400 acres” to date in the watershed they called home. In addition to funding outdoor facility improvements, Knowles-Nelson has helped with “land acquisition to protect tributaries like the Kinnickinnic, Clam, and Yellow Rivers” and “popular nature preserves and parks” like “Standing Cedars near Osceola, the Wert Preserve in St. Croix Falls, the Ice Age Trail,” and the recent Kinnickinnic Community Forest.

To counter arguments that funding should be cut because the most important parcels of public land have already been protected, conservationists point out that only “about 17 percent of Wisconsin has some level of protection…. That is less than neighbors in Michigan and Minnesota, and far short of the goal recently recommended by scientists to protect at least 30 percent of land across the United States to prevent species extinction and mitigate climate change.”

Seitz concludes by directing readers to the Team Knowles-Nelson postcard campaign, where you can upload your favorite photo of the Wisconsin outdoors with a message, and have a postcard printed and sent to your legislators. If you’d also like to learn more about the governor’s funding proposal and email your legislators, check out our portal here.

Featured image by Aaron Carlson, 2013.

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