As the campaign to renew Knowles-Nelson reaches its conclusion, Mike Carlson of Gathering Waters joined Wisconsin BHA co-chair Noah Wishau and member Kelly Van Beek on the Wisconsin BHA podcast to talk about how important Knowles-Nelson lands are to hunters, anglers, and other outdoor enthusiasts across the state, and why reauthorization of the program is so vital.
“The future of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program is at a crossroads,” Mike says. “If we can’t get funding for the program reauthorized in the state budget, it’s going to go away. We won’t have any more funding for purchasing public lands and providing access to those lands.”
While the level of funding for Knowles-Nelson is a critical component, Mike notes that it’s also important for the program to be reauthorized for a full decade, rather than a few years, because the complexity of many conservation projects means they take a long time to complete. Conservation organizations need to know they can rely on Knowles-Nelson funding to be there.
Kelly Van Beek agrees, commenting that, “An important aspect of having long-term security in this funding pool is our ability to use Knowles-Nelson, like we have in the past, to match […] the big pots of federal money that are available to us to purchase land. We need to plan years in advance for that sort of match, and the Knowles-Nelson dollars have been so critical for our ability to match that effectively.”
One frequent criticism of Knowles-Nelson is the belief that much of Wisconsin already has enough public land, but Mike argues that many vital properties still need to be protected. As an example, Mike cited a report by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership that found that “there are about 55,000 acres of public lands in Wisconsin that are landlocked, that are not currently accessible unless you can access them through private land.” Knowles-Nelson grants are one of the only tools available to acquire public access to these lands.
Mike urges Wisconsin’s hunters, anglers, and all other users of public lands to contact their elected officials to speak up in support of Knowles-Nelson before it goes before the Joint Committee on Finance. In just a few seconds, you can send a message to your representatives on our Take Action page.
The Knowles-Nelson segment of this podcast begins at about 23:15.
Featured image by USFWS Midwest Region, 2015.