Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program

The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program is a highly successful public-private partnership that currently provides $33.5 million annually to secure critical wildlife habitat, conserve the best of outdoor Wisconsin and provide consistent world class outdoor recreation opportunities. It has played a key role in The Nature Conservancy’s conservation success in Wisconsin.

Named for two of Wisconsin's most respected former governors—Warren Knowles and Gaylord Nelson —the Stewardship Program has achieved incredible results, protecting more than 500,000 acres of Wisconsin’s most beautiful and diverse lands and waters since 1990. Projects have ranged from 100-square-mile purchases such as the Wild Rivers Legacy Forest in northeast Wisconsin to 1-acre additions to the Hank Aaron State Trail in Milwaukee. 

Lands and waters protected by the Stewardship Program provide remarkable recreational opportunities for hikers, bikers, bird-watchers, hunters and anglers. They are also an important contributor to Wisconsin’s tourism and timber economies.

Over the years, the citizens of Wisconsin have shown overwhelming support for this program. In a bipartisan poll conducted by The Nature Conservancy, nearly 90 percent of Wisconsin voters agreed that even in tight fiscal times this program should be a priority.

There is no question that the Stewardship Program has accomplished great things, yet with increases in population and growth and demand for outdoor recreational opportunities, its work is far from done.

The Nature Conservancy and its members helped get the Stewardship Program established in 1989, and over the years we have fought to prevent funding cuts and ensure that the program was reauthorized each decade with increased funding to conserve more of Wisconsin’s special lands and waters.

In the coming years, we must continue to ensure that Wisconsin’s Stewardship Program—one of our nation’s most successful conservation programs—remains strong and well-funded. If we do, it will continue to provide natural areas, state parks and bike trails that Wisconsinites will enjoy for generations to come.

If you have questions about the Stewardship Program and how it helps the Conservancy protect Wisconsin’s lands and waters, please contact Paul Heinen.


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