The Nature Conservancy is disappointed in the Joint Finance Committee’s decision yesterday to cut the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program by 20 percent, or $63.5 million, between now and 2020. Since the program was established in 1989, it has protected park land, hunting areas, urban green space, working forests, wildlife habitat and trails for biking, snowmobiling, hiking, skiing and horseback riding.
The Stewardship motion passed by the Joint Finance Committee will significantly limit the amount of land we can protect over the next few years; it also creates a long list of new policies that will make the program less effective.
While we appreciate the sustained commitment to grant funding for non-governmental organizations at $12 million, conservation carried out by the State is also critical for outdoor recreation, tourism, habitat conservation and forestry. With the Joint Finance Committee actions, the State’s ability to acquire important lands for Wisconsin citizens is significantly curtailed.
It’s unfortunate at a time when creating jobs is so critical to our state that we would decrease funding for a program that has done so much to support tourism and forestry. The 20 percent cut to the program in this budget, following a 30 percent cut in the previous budget, is severely limiting the positive impact the Stewardship Program can have on two of Wisconsin’s biggest industries.
The motion also creates a dangerous precedent of selling public lands: 12,000 acres over the next few years. This at a time when polling continues to show that an overwhelming number of Wisconsin citizens support protecting additional acres for parks, wildlife areas, natural areas and bike paths.
As Wisconsin grows and the economy expands, keeping the lands and waters that are the foundation of our prosperity healthy will only become more important. The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program has been a strong partner in this effort, and we will continue our effort to ensure that it stays strong so future generations can enjoy Wisconsin’s beauty and natural resources as we do today.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.