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Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program

On Friday, May 29, 2015, the Joint Committee on Finance voted to restore funding for the Stewardship Program.

The Republican members of the committee eliminated a 13-year halt to the program proposed in the governor’s executive budget. Their action maintains the bulk of the program. After lots of negotiating, Joint Committee on Finance voted to fund Stewardship at $33 million per year, including $9 million for DNR land acquisition, $7 million for Nonprofit Conservation Organizations (land trusts), and $6 million for the Local Units of Government subprogram. This is a big improvement over the governor's proposal.

The Stewardship Program has helped make Wisconsin a leader in protecting a state’s natural resources. For the past 25 years, the Stewardship Program has provided funding to the state DNR, local governments and non-profit conservation partners, such as Groundswell, to preserve valuable natural areas and wildlife habitat, to protect water quality and fisheries, and to expand opportunities for outdoor recreation in our parks, wildlife areas and forests. Stewardship is an investment that directly supports Wisconsin’s $12 billion outdoor recreation industry—including a $4 billion hunting and fishing industry—and the state’s $20 billion forestry industry.

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 48 more Stewardship Program grants, totaling $15,386,000. We have used that money to help protect 4,750 acres of land and water at great places like Cherokee Marsh, Black Earth Creek, and the Sugar River. See the list below of places we were able to protect with grants from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.

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.

Places we protected with grants from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program:

Allen Creek Wetlands State Natural Area

Amey Pond Wildlife Area

Avon Bottoms State Wildlife Area

Black Earth Creek Valley

Blue Mounds Loop Trail

Brooklyn State Wildlife Area

Cherokee Marsh Conservation Park

Empire Prairies State Natural Area

Historic Indian Agency House

John Muir County Park

Kingsley Bend, Wisconsin River

Lake Belle View Park

Lower Wisconsin State Riverway

Lower Yahara River

Patrick Marsh Natural Resource Area

Token Creek

Town of Dunn

Upper Sugar River

Waubesa Wetlands State Natural Area


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