Economic Benefits of Stewardship

The Stewardship Program helps protect Wisconsin places loved by residents and visitors alike, Stewardship also protects the natural resources on which our $13 billion tourism, $22 billion forestry and $4 billion hunting and fishing industries depend. 

The Stewardship Program makes economic sense

Stewardship is less than half of 1 percent of the state’s overall annual budget and has incredibly far-reaching impacts.  For the same amount of money as it will take to update  I-94 between Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee and the Illinois state line, we can permanently protect nearly 30,000 acres of land for public hunting and fishing, bicycling and snowmobiling, camping and bird watching.

There is also increasing demand for “one-tank” destinations and recreational areas.  According to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, “the recent recovery in vacation travel is largely the result of close-to-home drive travel.”  Wisconsin’s close-to-home tourism opportunities, many of which are protected by the Stewardship Program, are a draw for people across the Midwest who consider Wisconsin a “drive-to” getaway.

Stewardship-protected lands help fuel Wisconsin’s economy

With so much focus on jobs and the economy right now, one bright spot is the outdoor recreation industry.  Nationwide, Americans spend $646 billion on outdoor recreation, according to a new study by the Outdoor Industry Association.  Here in Wisconsin, outdoor recreation generates $11.9 billion in consumer spending; 142,000 direct Wisconsin jobs equaling $3.6 billion in wages and salaries, and $844 million in state and local tax revenue.  The Stewardship Program directly supports this industry and helps to drive these numbers.  As birders, hunters, bikers, anglers, and campers make their way through state lands enjoying recreational opportunities, they also make their way into area lodging, restaurant, and retail businesses.  Find a link to the study here.

Timber operations require significant, continuous acreage to operate, but foreign companies are currently divesting themselves of large tracts of land in Wisconsin.  Many acres of Wisconsin forest protected by Stewardship remain active timber production lands, supporting Wisconsin's leading forest products industry.

Stewardship helps support the $4 billion in revenue from hunting and fishinginWisconsin.  Many Wisconsin firms depend on the revenue that hunters generate, and Wisconsin is known as a world-class hunting and fishing destination.

Stewardship stretches state dollars

The Stewardship Program is one of only a handful of state budget items that leverage private and federal funds to match the state’s investment of taxpayers’ dollars.  Land trusts and local governments have been critical to the success of the Stewardship program.   To date, these partners have raised over $188,000,000 in federal, local and private funds to match state grants received through the Stewardship program and have protected over 63,000 acres, creating recreational and parklands across the state.

A few examples of Stewardship's cost-effectiveness include:

In Mequon “One way to gauge the popularity of this program has been the widespread support of individuals, foundations, and corporations that have “over” matched Stewardship funds. An example is the Mequon Nature Preserve. The total cost of acquiring the Preserve’s 438 acres was $6.7 million. The Stewardship Program provided $881,000 of this amount. The Stewardship is not expected nor can it do everything. But its dollars prime the pump for a significant infusion of many more private dollars.”-- Christine Nuernberg, Mayor, City of Mequon

In St. Germain: A Stewardship Development grant helped pave five miles of a multi-use recreation trail, starting at St. Germain’s tourist center. The grant leveraged $210,000 in contributions from the town’s room taxes and local donations.  It was an instant success.  The parking lot is always full of bikes and bikes and trailers, and a headline in the local Vilas County News Review declared, "Instant Tourism Arrives.”

Business owners Tim and Karen Schinke run a cafe along a Stewardship funded bike trail.In Walworth County: The Stewardship Program has been a business incubator.  The White River State Trail connects Elkhorn and Burlington.  The City of Lake Geneva and Walworth County together matched $175,000 in Stewardship grants to develop this popular bike throughway.  At the half way point, riders stop at a renovated rail depot, now the Pedal and Cup Cafe, to lunch (or rent bikes, or purchase locally crafted gifts).


photo by Justin Morrissey

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