By Deb Turski - WSO Conservation Committee
Right now the future of land, water and habitat conservation in Wisconsin is at risk as the 2021 state budget process is underway. The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program (KNSP) is now up for a 10-year renewal in the 2021 budget negotiations.
GOOD NEWS: On Feb. 15, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ proposed budget came through with the DNR’s request for $70 million a year for the next 10 years for the KNSP, the state's program to protect public lands through acquisition of properties, purchase of easements, development of recreational facilities and restoration of wildlife habitat. BUT: Now it’s on to negotiations with the Republican-controlled State Legislature, where this critical program may be vulnerable.
Since its creation by the Legislature and Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson in 1989, the Stewardship Program has provided foundational support for natural resource preservation, restoration and maintenance throughout the state. Millions of citizens and visitors enjoy the results of projects statewide made possible by Knowles-Nelson funding: hiking, hunting and fishing in pristine streams and natural areas, along with picnicking, nature education and simple access to the Great Outdoors. Though many are unaware of this critical legislation, it has provided untold benefits for all to enjoy, with more than 9 in 10 Wisconsin families living within one mile of a Stewardship Program investment!
As birders, we are all deeply concerned about the widespread habitat loss that has resulted in staggering wildlife declines. Funds provided by Knowles-Nelson are responsible for vast acres of natural lands being purchased and set aside for mitigation of habitat loss, along with numerous projects to improve damaged areas. Most of the annual distribution of funds comes as grants to local governments, land trusts and other nonprofits, usually as a match for funds raised by those groups.
One notable example of this was the Stewardship Fund grant of $249,000 enabling WSO’s half-million-dollar purchase of the 105-acre addition to our Honey Creek Nature Preserve.
WSO is part of Team Knowles-Nelson, a consortium of groups and individuals led by Gathering Waters, Wisconsin’s land trust alliance, educating the public and its legislators on the importance of this program to Wisconsin’s natural environment.
With the governor’s proposal in play, NOW is the time to convince legislators of the importance of the Stewardship Program to all of us, and to the natural communities we love. Find more detailed information at https://knowlesnelson.org/
Please contact YOUR Wisconsin Senate and Assembly members to remind them of the importance of this program to you and the future of Wisconsin’s natural world! There is nothing more compelling to an elected official than a sincere personal communication from their constituent. Find their names and addresses here: https://legis.wisconsin.gov/
NOW is the time to act!