An aerial view of sandbars and islands in the Wisconsin River valley.
Wisconsin River A recent TNC poll shows that nine of ten Wisconsin voters continue to support the State Legislature dedicating public funding for land and water conservation. © Steve S. Meyer/TNC Photo Contest 2021


Overwhelming Bipartisan Support for Public Funding for Conservation

New Nature Conservancy poll shows that public investment in conserving Wisconsin’s lands and waters is widely supported.

Media Contacts

A recent statewide survey of Wisconsin voters, funded by The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin and conducted by the nationally recognized bipartisan research team of FM3 Research (D) and New Bridge Strategy (R), shows continued, very strong support for the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program. The support shows up across all demographics and geographies in the state.

Nine of 10 Badger State voters continue to support the State Legislature dedicating public funding for conservation. Two-thirds say that, even with other challenges facing Wisconsin, we should continue to invest in protecting and preserving natural areas, clean water and wildlife habitat. This overwhelming support for the Stewardship Program has remained steady since 2007, when TNC began polling related to the program, and even when the state faced budget shortfalls. Despite these consistently high levels of support, the program and conservation investments in Wisconsin have decreased substantially over the past 10 years.

Of the types of projects the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program funds, voters are most supportive of protecting water quality (84%) and fish/wildlife (80%).

“From its inception in 1990, strong bipartisan support for the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program has been a hallmark of its success,” says Elizabeth Koehler, who directs The Nature Conservancy’s work in Wisconsin. “This poll shows that 33 years later, people across the political spectrum have not wavered in their support for conservation of the forests, lakes and rivers that make Wisconsin a great place to live and work.”

In addition, the survey also found overwhelming bipartisan support for greater transparency in the Legislature’s review process of Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program grants, which was true throughout the state and across party lines.

Interviews were conducted March 16-21 of 2023 and were distributed proportionally throughout the state. Quotas were also set for key demographic sub-groups, such as gender and age. The credibility interval (analogous to margin of error) is ±4.38% for the overall sample.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in more than 70 countries and territories, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.