Oct 13, 2011
Stewardship Program Threatened
As we've reported, this legislation has the potential to negatively impact the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.
The Assembly Natural Resources Committee held a public hearing on October 11 to gather feedback on the "Sporting Heritage Bill", also known as AB 311. We attended the hearing and testified against the Stewardship-related provisions in the bill, as did representatives from The Nature Conservancy, the Rotary Club of Milwaukee, and the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, among others. The message from these groups was clear -- the Stewardship Program already guarantees public access for hunting, trapping, fishing, hiking and cross country skiing with very limited exceptions, and the program should have enough flexibility to protect valuable properties in all corners of the state.
The timeline for AB 311 is not entirely clear, but here are some likely next steps: (1) the Assembly Natural Resources Committee will probably meet again in late October or early November to vote on the bill and any amendments; and (2) the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee will likely hold a public hearing on the bill in late October or early to mid-November before convening to vote on the bill. We will be in touch with an update when we know specific dates for hearings, but this week and next are a critical time for all of us to reach out to legislators.
There are several ways to determine which legislators represent you or your organization's service area. You can input your address or municipality. You can search the statewide map of Senate districts or Assembly districts. There are also more detailed maps of individual Senate districts and individual Assembly districts.
Finally, if you want to search for a particular elected official, you an email and phone directory for the Senate and a directory for the Assembly.
Please let us know if you have trouble finding your legislators' contact information, and we would be happy to help track it down.
Here are several talking points on the bill:
Assembly Bill 311 would prohibit the Department of Natural Resources (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.
- We strongly support getting people into the outdoors and connected with our state's sporting heritage, including through public access to Stewardship properties.
- The provision in this bill related to public access is unnecessary and would actually result in fewer new recreational opportunities for Wisconsinites, particularly near population centers.
- 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 community).
- This proposed 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 an individual grant to a land trust or local government will benefit local businesses and the economy of the state. The Stewardship Program helps to fuel Wisconsin's economy by supporting the state's $12 billion tourism industry and $22 billion forestry industry; however, to expect an economic impact analysis on individual Stewardship projects would be unrealistic and unnecessary. It would also be a costly unfunded mandate. The economic impact of Stewardship should be carefully examined at the state and regional levels.
- We would strongly support a broader statewide or region-by-region study on the economic impact of the Stewardship Program. Such a study could be carefully designed and researched and would provide much clearer results.
- In 2008, Trout Unlimited commissioned a study that showed that recreational angling in the Driftless Area of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois generates $1.1 billion in annual benefit to the local economy. We're confident that Stewardship would demonstrate even more impressive economic figures.
Please feel free to contact us with any questions, and stay tuned to our website for additional updates.