Update: State Budget and the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program

The end is in sight for Wisconsin’s state budget process, with the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance scheduled to take a final round of votes in early September. All indications from the Legislature point to no further changes being made to funding for the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program. The Stewardship Program is currently funded at $33 million per year, with $7 million available for nonprofit matching grants.

Photo: Brant Erickson

Despite the fact that the Stewardship Program has moved through the Joint Finance Committee without changes or cuts, the land trust community must remain vigilant during the remaining legislative session. As we shared earlier in 2017, companion Bills AB338/SB270 were introduced back in May by Rep. August and Sen. Nass. These bills would essentially end crucial parts of the Stewardship Program through a convoluted process—utilizing program funding to purchase lands that are already owned by the state’s Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL). The revenue generated from this sale is proposed to create a scholarship fund at the UW.

We have vocally opposed the bills since prior to their introduction earlier this year, and we sent a letter to all legislative offices in opposition, requesting that legislators not sign on as co-sponsors. Additionally, we sent action alerts out to our members and spent a couple of days in the Capitol asking Representatives and Senators not to sign on to the bills as a co-sponsor. These advocacy efforts appear to be paying off, as the number of co-sponsors on the bills was fairly small, 11 in the Assembly, 5 in the Senate. The status of these bills will need to be monitored until the end of the session, and pressure against them must be maintained.