On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, a bill was introduced that proposes significant cuts to the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.

Bill (LRB-1803/1) proposes to cut 78% from the Knowles-Nelson grants to counties for land acquisition and 43% from the Knowles-Nelson grants to non-profit conservation organizations, such as Groundswell, for land acquisition. This proposal takes this money from the highly popular and successful stewardship program and requires the DNR to purchase land that the state already owns. We don’t even know if the DNR wants this land, and the legislature has already directed the DNR to dispose of 10,000 acres of state owned land.

To learn more read this article from Wisconsin State Journal.

The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program is a highly successful public-private partnership that currently provides $33 million annually to secure critical wildlife habitat, conserve the best of outdoor Wisconsin and provide consistent world class outdoor recreation opportunities. It has played a key role in the success of land trusts throughout Wisconsin.

Groundswell received the first grant to non-profit organizations ever awarded by the Stewardship Program. We received this $1,980 grant in 1993 to help purchase a conservation easement on Token Creek in Dane County. Since that humble beginning, Groundswell has received 53 more Stewardship Program grants, totaling $16,137,569. We have used that money to help protect 5,195 acres of land and water at great places like Cherokee Marsh, Black Earth Creek, and the Sugar River.

Groundswell has matched each $1 provided by the Stewardship Program with an additional $1.30, more than doubling the buying power of the Stewardship Program. This has been thanks to the generosity of landowners as well other sources of conservation funds including the Dane County Conservation Fund, the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, local foundations, and private contributions. This wise investment pays off every day for the communities we serve, helping to make sure everyone has parks, trails, and natural areas close to where they live so that everyone has the chance to hike in a natural area, catch a fish, run and play, hunt, and enjoy being outside. It is no surprise that healthy communities have convenient, nearby spaces for recreation and outdoor fun, and the Stewardship Program plays a large role in making that happen.

Please contact your legislators and urge them not to sign on as co-sponsors and to vote against the bill if it comes up for vote either in committee or on the floor. Conservation where we live is made possible because of strong and active people who care.