Speak Out

May 25 UPDATE: The time is NOW for a final push to extend funding for land and water conservation in the Driftless Area!

Governor Evers' state budget proposal includes a 10-year reauthorization of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, funded at $70 million per year.

This robust proposal is a clear indication of the governor's commitment to protecting Wisconsin's land and water. A 10-year renewal of the Stewardship Program would provide land trusts and local governments with the certainty they need to execute strategic and targeted conservation projects, which often require years of planning. And $70 million per year would more than double the program's current funding, getting Wisconsin closer to the $86 million mark that we used to commit to Knowles-Nelson more than a decade ago.

What's the status of Knowles-Nelson in the legislature?

The Assembly and Senate are each debating Stewardship within their own caucus. Each chamber will decide on their ideal proposal for renewing Knowles-Nelson. The Assembly and Senate will then come together to work out a compromise. Ultimately, that compromise is what will come up for a vote when the Joint Finance Committee considers the future of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program. Such a vote is likely to happen in early to mid-June, but we don't know an exact date.


What are we hearing about the future of Stewardship?

Gathering Waters and many of our Team Knowles Nelson partners have been meeting with dozens of members of both the Assembly and the Senate.

We are finding that there is generally strong support for renewing Knowles-Nelson in both the Assembly and the Senate. Because Republicans enjoy strong majorities in both chambers, it is Republican members of the legislature who have the strongest voices in determining the future of the program.

Some members are speaking up publicly about their support for Knowles-Nelson.

  • Senator Dale Kooyenga (R - Brookfield) released a statement last weekend in which he shared his personal support for Knowles-Nelson, but he stopped short of endorsing a specific time period or dollar amount for the program.
  • Senator Roger Roth (R - Appleton) told radio host Josh Dukelow that he supports a 10-year renewal of Knowles-Nelson, but at an unspecified dollar amount less than that proposed by the Governor.
  • Representative Joel Kitchens (R - Sturgeon Bay) told constituents last week that he supports a 10-year renewal, but he indicated that "we will have to compromise on a price tag."

Each of these comments underscores the importance of keeping up our communication with legislators and urging them to champion a strong Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program. It's encouraging to see Republican legislators speaking up for Stewardship, but we're going to need a lot more vocal support for the program to get Knowles-Nelson across the finish line.

Please, take a moment and write your legislators one more time in support of Stewardship.

Email your legislators and the governor in support of Knowles-Nelson. We've made it easy, so it only takes a few seconds to send a thank you note to Governor Evers and to encourage your state legislators to be Knowles-Nelson champions.


Let's not forget to celebrate our successes!

Thus far, we've delivered more than 12,000 messages of support for Knowles-Nelson to decision makers across the state. That is a remarkable achievement, so THANK YOU for being such an active and passionate supporter of Wisconsin's land and water.

We'll be in touch frequently over the next few weeks as the budget debates continue and we learn more about the the future of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.


Knowles-Nelson is for Wisconsin's water, wildlife, and our way of life.

Knowles-Nelson provides funds for cities, counties, non-profit groups, and the state to purchase land for conservation. It funds essential upkeep and maintenance of our waterways, parks, forests, and trail systems. Dozens of Conservancy projects, including the La Crosse Blufflands, Kickapoo Caverns, and New Amsterdam Grasslands, to name just a few, would not be possible without the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program. The Ice Age Trail across Wisconsin, snowmobile and ATV trails up north, and boat launches on our lakes and rivers all benefit from Knowles-Nelson funding. County forests remain working forests open to recreation because of Knowles-Nelson grants. Local governments and citizen conservation organizations also receive funds to purchase land for conservation. Knowles-Nelson has funded projects in every single county in Wisconsin. If there's a natural place in Wisconsin that is special to you, chances are Knowles-Nelson has made it better.

Knowles-Nelson is bi-partisanship at its best.

Clean water, habitat for wildlife, and the land to support Wisconsin's way of life is something we can all agree on.

Named after two former Wisconsin governors--Warren Knowles, a Republican, and Gaylord Nelson, a Democrat--the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program honors Wisconsin's historic commitment to land and water protection.

Since its inception in 1989, Republicans and Democrats across the state have championed the program because our land, water, and wildlife don't have political affiliations. We all want Wisconsin to be a healthy, thriving place to live, work, and play. We believe that strengthening the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program is an opportunity for citizens and lawmakers across the state to work together.

Key Facts

  • The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program (KNSP) is Wisconsin’s best way to support land and water conservation. KNSP provides funds for land acquisition, trail development, campgrounds, boat launches, and more.
  • A 10-year authorization of KNSP will provide the long-term certainty that nonprofits and local governments need in order to plan and carry out environmental conservation projects.
  • We’re proud of the work the KNSP has made possible, but there’s a lot left to be done. Wisconsin protects a smaller portion of our land than either Michigan or Minnesota, and we invest less money each year in our public lands. We can build on our strong tradition of conservation and do more for Wisconsin’s land and water.
  • Since the program’s inception in 1989, Wisconsin has permanently protected more than 650,000 acres.
  • The state has invested $1.2 billion in the KNSP over 30 years. This is a significant investment, and KNSP lands provide a more than $2 billion value every year. KNSP lands filter water and air, sequester carbon, mitigate floods, provide wildlife habitat, and offer countless opportunities for recreation.
  • More than 40 non-profit land trusts protect more than 180,000 acres, and KNSP funding is vital to their work.
  • Stewardship protects land close to home. Nearly everyone in Wisconsin lives within five miles of a KNSP investment. Hundreds of grants have provided funds to improve the parks, trails, and waterways in the communities where we live.