E-News: What’s Next for the Stewardship Program

On March 1st, Governor Walker released his state budget proposal.  In his budget, Governor Walker did not propose any cuts to Stewardship Program funding.  Under the proposal, Stewardship would remain at $86 million annually through 2020.  As a result, Gathering Waters Conservancy released a statement commending the governor for his support of the program.

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.

 

February 22, 2011

You may have read on our website that the Stewardship Program, a state land protection program invaluable to the work of land trusts, has been temporarily put on hold by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.  We want to keep you informed of what we’ve learned regarding the status of the Program and what you can do:

Right now:

The Wisconsin DNR’s announcement on February 7 of a temporary hold on the Stewardship Program has affected several land trusts with grant applications in the pipeline.  We have reached out to these organizations and have advised them to clearly document how this hold will impact projects and what could be lost for their communities and the state.

It is important to recognize that the hold does not mean that projects in the pipeline are necessarily lost.  The hold was announced as temporary while DNR leadership reviews priorities under the program.  We recognize that in some cases a delay may result in the loss of a project given deadlines with landowners and other granting sources, and we are working with the land trusts to do what we can on this front.  We are also communicating these risks to DNR leadership.

In addition, it is never too early to begin contacting your legislators to let them know how important the Stewardship Program is to your community.  This will become even more important as we enter the state budget process (see below).  For now, please visit our website for key facts on the program.  As more details are released, we will share more specific talking points.

Early March:

We anticipate that Governor Walker will release his executive budget in early March.  In his statement on February 7, the Governor said he is “committed to the Stewardship Program and to continuing it in the future, but we need to react right now to alleviate the immediate state fiscal crisis.”  When his executive budget is released, we will see clearly the level of commitment he is willing to make.  We will be working with our board of directors, our policy committee, and other advisors to determine the implications of the budget and appropriate next steps.  We want to hear from you too.

March and April:

The legislature’s Joint Finance Committee (JFC) will begin reviewing the executive budget.  They will likely hold public hearings as part of this process.  It will be critical for our voices to be heard at this time - especially in home districts of JFC members.  Our message is that the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program is critical to our economy, our communities and the people of Wisconsin.  Please be prepared to share examples of how the Program has provided benefit in and around your community.  We have already been in touch with many of you and look forward to reaching out to even more people as we move forward.

As I mentioned, more talking points will follow, but for now please make use of our website which contains the foundation for any discussion on Stewardship.  And remember that the best stories are the ones that show what will happen in your backyard.  For instance, how would a cut to the Stewardship Program affect you and your community?  And what would be the loss to the recreation industry, forestry industry, wildlife habitat, and quality of life in your area?

May and June:

We have heard that the GOP legislative leadership and the governor plan to have the state budget signed no later than June 30, 2011.

Thank you for all you do and please don’t hesitate to be in touch if you have questions or are hearing anything new on Stewardship.  We’ve literally had hundreds of meetings-beginning with contacting candidates early last year-but we always learn a lot from the contacts and conversations that you have with folks around the state.