Sep 09, 2011
Stewardship Grants Update
Stewardship Grants Application Process
The deadline for land trust Stewardship projects to be considered in the current 2011 fiscal year passed on Tuesday, September 6th. The next deadline for Stewardship grants will likely be February 1st, 2012. Going forward, we anticipate that February 1st will be the annual deadline.
If you missed the September 6th deadline or if you have other projects that may be ready by February, it is never too early to begin thinking about the application process. Application forms and sample documents can be found here. For more information on the process see the DNR Stewardship grants website. If you have any questions or need clarification, DNR staff have put together a list of frequently asked questions about the new process. You can also reach out directly to DNR grants staff, or contact us here at Gathering Waters.
Administrative Rule NR 51
Administrative Rule NR 51 (which defines the criteria and process for the Stewardship grants program) was approved by the Natural Resources Board at their August 10th meeting.
A copy of the rule language that was approved can be found here.
DNR staff had updated the rule to account for several housekeeping issues, statutory changes, incorporation of existing grant practices, and input from the public. In general, we believe that the revisions to NR 51 are reasonable and will help to improve the program.
The administrative rule must now go through additional review by the legislature before it can officially be promulgated, but it seems unlikely that any additional substantive changes will be made to it before it is finalized.
Natural Resources Board review of Stewardship grants
As you may recall, Administrative Rule NR 52 (which governs public access on new Stewardship properties) included a provision that requires the Natural Resources Board (NRB) to approve any prohibitions of nature-based outdoor activities (NBOAs) (hunting, trapping, fishing, hiking, and cross country skiing).
At their August meeting, the NRB had one of their first opportunities to review a proposed prohibition (in this case, water trapping) on the basis of protecting a unique plant or animal community (in this case the Federally endangered Hine's Emerald Dragonfly). The NRB determined that the project sponsor could not prohibit water trapping on the property because the larvae of the endangered dragonfly had not actually been found on the specific parcel, even though the site has been designated as critical habitat for the species by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and has very similar characteristics to nearby properties where the larvae is known to exist.
The Natural Resources Board also determined that a free and unlimited permitting system for hunting and trapping on the property is considered a prohibition unless on-site registration is made available.
As more Stewardship projects run through the NR 52 process, we will let you know about future NRB decisions and will continue to reach out to DNR leadership and members of the NRB to ensure that NR 52 is implemented in a more predictable and efficient manner. For additional information, please contact DNR Stewardship grants staff, or contact us here at Gathering Waters.
Joint Finance Committee review of Stewardship grants
In the latest state budget, the threshold for review of Stewardship projects by the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee (JFC) was lowered from $750,000 to $250,000. This threshold is calculated based on the grant amount, not the purchase price of a property. The statutory reference for the JFC's oversight is Wis. Stat. 23.0915(4), and includes the following provisions:
(1) The DNR must notify the co-chairs of JFC in writing of any Stewardship grants over $250,000;
(2) If the co-chairs of JFC do not notify the DNR within 14 working days after the date of the DNR's notification that the JFC has scheduled a meeting to review the project, the DNR may encumber the funding;
(3) If within 14 working days the co-chairs notify the DNR that JFC has decided to schedule a meeting to review the project, the DNR may only encumber the funding if a majority of JFC votes to approve the project.
It is important to note that there are no natural resources-based criteria in place to guide the JFC's decisions on approving or denying Stewardship projects, and individual members can vote against a project without publicly stating any rationale for their decisions. Given this increased level of legislative oversight, it will be important for members of JFC to understand the value of your Stewardship projects to your community and to the state. We will be working throughout the year to inform members of JFC about Stewardship grants in the pipeline, and will try to connect project sponsors with legislators prior to this potential review process.
If you think that you may be applying for a Stewardship grant over $250,000 this fiscal year, please let us know about it as early as possible. We're hoping to keep tabs on what projects are moving through the grants process to help guide our efforts in the Legislature. For your information a list of JFC members can be found here.