Curious to learn about how the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program works and what it’s impact has been around the state? You’ve come to the right place! We’ve spent months looking into the details of Knowles-Nelson and crunching the numbers in order to understand what Wisconsin has invested in land and water conservation, and what those conserved places give back to us.
Created by the Wisconsin State Legislature in 1989, the Warren Knowles-Gaylord Nelson Stewardship Program provides funding to acquire land for conservation, to improve facilities on public lands, to enhance outdoor recreational activities, and to protect ecologically important places. Through the program, the Department of Natural Resources acquires land and develops recreational amenities on state properties such as campsites, shelters, recreational trails, and boating facilities. The DNR also provides grants to local governments and community organizations to both acquire and develop properties.
As of 2020, more than nine out of ten Wisconsin residents live within 1 mile of a property that has received a Knowles-Nelson Stewardship investment. Yet the program only costs $19.75 per person per year. That’s quite a value.
Since 1990, Wisconsin has invested nearly $1.3 billion in the Stewardship Program. In return, Wisconsin residents and visitors enjoy an enormous range of benefits: outdoor recreation; flood control; climate regulation; mental and physical health benefits; and biodiversity preservation. Those benefits are worth more than $2 billion every year.
Here, we present research into some of the most important benefits of Wisconsin’s public lands, exploring how they work and providing quantitative estimates of their impact. You’ll find summaries of the research that share our key findings and links to download the full papers.
Tyler Byrnes is a doctoral student at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UW–Madison, researching Water Quality Trading and other market-based environmental governance strategies. Before returning to graduate school, Tyler worked as an Executive Budget and Policy Analyst, at the Wisconsin Department of Administration, providing analysis on four executive budget bills, to Governors Doyle and Walker. He has a master’s degree in Public Policy from the University of Northern Iowa and a bachelor’s degree from Ripon College. In his free time, he loves hunting birds with his American Water Spaniel, camping and paddling with his family, and riding mountain bikes with anyone he can find.
Jacob Dudley is an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin–Madison studying Economics and Environmental studies. Outside of school, Jacob works on the Food Insecurity Team at The Farmlink Project and has helped facilitate donations of fresh produce to food banks across the continental United States. Beyond work, Jacob enjoys going on long walks through the woods, cooking, and that first cup of coffee with the news.