Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program Update
Joint Finance Committee Votes on the Stewardship Program
The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee (JFC) voted on the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program this afternoon. The JFC voted to roll back funding for the program to the previously authorized level of $60 million a year, but also took actions to help ensure the flexibility and local support needed for a successful program, including reinstating aids in lieu of property taxes and the use of conservation easements. The actual motion that passed the committee can be found here.
In terms of next steps in the state budget process, the full Legislature will likely consider the budget in mid- to late-June, and then the Governor is expected to sign it by the end of June or in early July. Please stay tuned this section of our website with additional updates and action items.
After today's vote, Gathering Waters released the following statement:
LAND TRUST COMMUNITY COMMENDS THE JOINT COMMITTEE ON FINANCE
FOR ITS ACTIONS ON THE KNOWLES-NELSON STEWARDSHIP PROGRAM
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 19, 2011
Contact: Mike Strigel, Executive Director, Gathering Waters Conservancy
608-333-9495 or email@example.com
Madison, WI – Gathering Waters Conservancy today commended the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance for voting to maintain a strong Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program and for supporting policies that will help to ensure that Stewardship remains effective in the future. “With this vote, the Joint Committee on Finance has reinforced the long bipartisan legacy of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program,” said Mike Strigel, executive director of Gathering Waters Conservancy, the umbrella organization for Wisconsin’s 50 land trusts.
Although the committee rolled back the recent increase in bonding authority for Stewardship, it also took actions that help ensure the flexibility and local support needed for a successful program, including reinstating aids in lieu of property taxes and the use of conservation easements.
“We certainly recognize the need for shared sacrifice during this difficult state budget process,” Strigel added. “As the economy improves, we look forward to working with the Governor and Legislature to ensure that the Stewardship Program continues to have appropriate funding to provide quality outdoor recreational opportunities and protect Wisconsin’s special places for future generations.”
Named for two of Wisconsin’s most respected former governors and land conservation champions – Republican Warren Knowles and Democrat Gaylord Nelson – the Stewardship Program has protected over 600,000 acres of Wisconsin’s special places like the Baraboo Hills State Recreation Area, the Hank Aaron State Trail in Milwaukee, and the Wild Rivers Legacy Forest (64,000 acres of forest, wild lakes and rivers in northern Wisconsin).
“Everyone who enjoys spending time outdoors in Wisconsin benefits from the Stewardship Program. It guarantees that our children and grandchildren will have special places to hike, bird watch, hunt, fish, trap, and paddle,” Strigel said. “This program plays a critical role in Wisconsin’s $13 billion tourism industry and $22 billion forestry industry, leverages millions of private and federal dollars, and enjoys broad public support.”
Stewardship is one of only a handful of state programs that leverage private, local, and federal funds to match the state’s investment. To date, these partners have raised over $188,000,000 to match the state taxpayer dollars.
March 4, 2011
While Governor Walker's budget maintains current levels of funding, there are several policy changes included in the proposal that may have an impact on the efficiency and the effectiveness of Stewardship. A summary of the policy changes can be found here (beginning on page 15). We are currently assessing what potential effects these changes may have on the program, and will keep you updated as we learn more.
We are also continuing to prepare for the state budget process in the Legislature. We are hopeful that Governor Walker's support for the Stewardship Program will help to set the direction for support in the Legislature, but we must remain vigilant through the entire process. We will continue to work with our Board, our Policy Committee, the land trust community, and many others to ensure that the Legislature is well informed about the Stewardship Program, understands its importance, and recognizes its broad base of support.
In early February the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources issued a temporary hold on Stewardship grant applications as its processes and procedures. You can read a copy of the letter sent to affected Stewardship grant applicants here.
At the same time, Governor Walker released his Stewardship Program talking points, explaining that he remains committed to the program, but he is also committed to alleviating the immediate state fiscal crisis.
In response to this news, Gathering Waters Conservancy released this statement articulating that we look forward to working with Governor Walker and DNR Secretary Stepp to ensure that the Stewardship Program continues to provide great value to Wisconsin.
Gathering Waters Conservancy remains committed to a strong and effective Stewardship Program. We continue to work with our Board of Directors, land trust leaders, and policy advisors to communicate the value of this important program.
Summer 2010 – January 2011
Through the 2010 election season, Gathering Waters Conservancy worked hard to educate the candidates on the work of land trusts and the importance of the Stewardship Program.
In January 2011 as the new administration took office we continued to work to engage and cultivate relationships with new state leadership to convey the value and broad support of this program.
We will continue to keep you updated at the situation evolves. If you have any questions, please contact Mike Strigel: 608-251-9131 x 14.
photo by Emery Orlikowski