The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program in Wisconsin needs to be renewed and fully funded
Wisconsin’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program provides valuable funding to conserve wildlife habitat and natural areas, expand opportunities for outdoor recreation, and protect water quality and fisheries.
Over the past three decades, the Knowles-Nelson program has invested more than $825 million in nearly 7,000 projects across the state. Though diverse forms of outdoor recreation are supported by these projects that involve purchasing lands or easements and sustaining infrastructure, a program review found 94% of lands purchased with Knowles-Nelson grants since 2007 are open to hunting.
Knowles-Nelson funds are available to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), local governments like Wisconsin’s county forests that support 60,000 jobs in the state’s $24 billion forestry industry, and nonprofit organizations like your Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) that works to unite conservationists to improve wildlife habitat and forest health.
When nonprofit conservation organizations like us make use of the program, every dollar contributed is matched by Knowles-Nelson funds, doubling the value and impact of our efforts.
We need your help to sustain and grow upon this legacy.
Since 2007, funding for the program has been cut from a high of $86 million per year down to its current level of $33 million per year. Furthermore, in a break from the tradition of reauthorizing the program 10 years at a time, the Wisconsin Legislature only funded the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program through 2021 in the last state budget. Even individual projects can take several years from start to finish. Landowners, donors, nonprofits, and government agencies depend upon program and budget certainty to invest their matching funds and considerable effort in planning and carrying out this work.
Fortunately, the 2021 budget proposal released by Governor Tony Evers requests a 10-year reauthorization of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, with funding at $70 million per year. The legislature now must act on this recommendation in the state budget process.
Please take a moment to visit our Team Knowles Nelson partner page, where you can easily compose and send an email to your legislator to ask them to renew and fully fund the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program at the recommended level.
RGS & AWS members and the 93% of Wisconsin households that are within 1 mile of a Knowles-Nelson investment all benefit greatly from this program, and should ensure their interests are served in the program and budget approvals to come.