Governor Walker wants stewardship fund to purchase less landGovernor Walker wants the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund, which buys lands for purposes of conservation, to shift its focus towards maintaining properties it has already purchased.
By: By Chuck Quirmbach, Wisconsin Public Radio, Superior Telegram
Governor Walker wants the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund, which buys lands for purposes of conservation, to shift its focus towards maintaining properties it has already purchased.
The stewardship program has always set aside some funds for property maintenance and development. But this year, at the request of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Walker is proposing a larger number be taken out of land acquisition: $10 million, which is a sixth of its annual budget. DNR secretary Cathy Stepp says the shift is necessary.
“As we evaluate what [is] the status of all the properties that we have in Wisconsin — which we’ve got a lot of, areas that we’re trying to manage and to keep up so that we can retain the public's investment in these properties — we saw that infrastructure and being able to have access to these properties is something that we were woefully inadequate on,” Stepp said. “So this is an opportunity for us to invest in those areas.”
Stepp says she realizes some private landowner could come along with a great deal for the state, and the state might not have all the acquisition dollars it needs. But Stepp says legislators can take up that possibility when they review the governor's budget.
Mike Strigel heads the Gathering Waters Conservancy, which helps 50 private land trusts that often partner with the state on stewardship projects. Strigel says his group will watch to make sure the stewardship program stays flexible.
“I don't have anything right out of the gate that says that there isn't enough buying power, but you're constantly weighing that and trying to take full advantage of opportunities,” he said.
However, Strigel says Gathering Waters is happy that Governor Walker wants to keep overall stewardship funding at $60 million for each of the next two years.
Check out what land has already been acquired by the stewardship program online at http://dnrmaps.wi.gov/imf/imf.jsp?site=mgdlands.stewardship.