Jul 13, 2015
State Budget Passes: Includes Funding for Stewardship, Eliminates Support for Gathering Waters
The recently-passed state budget included some good news and some bad news for Gathering Waters and Wisconsin land trusts.
First, the good news: the Stewardship Program compromise that was approved by the Joint Committee on Finance and the full legislature, which provides $33 million in annual funding overall, with $7 million per year available for land trust projects, has been passed into law. We applauded this compromise, as it reinforces a long-standing commitment to protecting the places that make Wisconsin special. The Republican members of Joint Finance had rejected a 13-year halt to Stewardship proposed in the governor’s executive budget. The committee's action, which was included in the final budget, maintains the bulk of the program, and represents a significant improvement over the governor's original proposal.
For the past 25 years, the Stewardship Program has provided funding to the state DNR, local governments and non-profit conservation partners, such as land trusts, to preserve valuable natural areas and wildlife habitat, to protect water quality and fisheries, and to expand opportunities for outdoor recreation in our parks, wildlife areas and forests. Stewardship is an investment that directly supports Wisconsin’s $12 billion outdoor recreation industry—including a $4 billion hunting and fishing industry—and the state’s $20 billion forestry industry. The annual cost of the program accounts for less than 0.3% of the overall state budget. The Stewardship Program costs each resident in Wisconsin less per year than a fishing license or a state park sticker, and the ongoing benefits to our state will continue to far outweigh the cost.
Now, the bad news for Gathering Waters and Wisconsin land trusts: unfortunately, Governor Walker vetoed funding for several nonprofit capacity grants, including one that supports Gathering Waters' land trust trainings and direct services. This grant, which represented a successful private/public partnership, provided important support to our core mission— strengthening Wisconsin's land trusts. In light of this unfortunate news, we are more committed than ever to working with you, with our board of directors, and with all of our friends and supporters to secure a strong and sustainable future for Gathering Waters and Wisconsin land trusts. Now more than ever we appreciate and value your support!