The recently-passed state budget included some good news and some bad news for Gathering Waters and Wisconsin land trusts. The Stewardship Program compromise, which provides $33 million annually, was passed into law, but the capacity grant that supports Gathering Waters' direct services to land trusts was eliminated by a veto.
Oct 07, 2011
A newly-introduced bill, AB 311, that has the potential to negatively impact the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.
The Assembly Natural Resources Committee will be holding a public hearing on this bill at 1:00pm on Tuesday, October 11th. We are planning to testify, as are several other organizations and individuals. More detailed information about the hearing can be found here.
The legislation, also know as the Sporting Heritage Bill, includes several excellent proposals focused on important goals of retention and recruitment of hunters, fishers, and trappers; however, it also includes some troubling provisions related to the Stewardship Program.
In particular, the bill would prohibit the DNR from acquiring land and awarding grants to land trusts for land acquisition with any prohibitions of nature-based outdoor activities (NBOAs) unless the Natural Resources Board (NRB) approves the acquisition unanimously. This level of oversight is unheard of in any other program in state government and would give individual members of the NRB veto authority over State Park purchases and Stewardship projects in and near urban areas, among other important and valuable projects.
The bill also requires the DNR to consider whether a grant to a land trust or local government will benefit local businesses and the economy of the state. No one seriously questions the fact that the Stewardship Program benefits the forestry and tourism industries in our state and is important for Wisconsin's economy, but to expect an economic impact analysis on individual Stewardship projects seems unnecessary and unrealistic.
We are in the process of gathering additional information on the provisions in this bill and will share what we have learned early next week.
In the meantime, please contact your legislators to express your concerns about these proposed changes to Stewardship. Let them know that:
- We support getting people into the outdoors and connected with our state's sporting heritage, including through public access to Stewardship properties.
- All new Stewardship purchases must already be open to nature-based outdoor activities (hunting, fishing, trapping, cross country skiing, and hiking) except in certain narrow circumstances (e.g., to protect public safety or to protect a unique plant or animal communities). The provision in this bill related to public access is unnecessary.
- The Stewardship Program provides substantial economic benefits across the state and in your community; however, an economic analysis of individual projects would be unnecessary and unrealistic.