We advocate for the right public funding and policies so that land trusts can protect the places that make Wisconsin special.

Land trusts require reliable public funding and sound legal structures in order to acquire conservation lands and to protect private lands with conservation easements. At Gathering Waters, it’s our job to advocate on behalf of Wisconsin’s land trusts with the state and federal government. We maintain open lines of communication with policy makers from both sides of the aisle and with the professional staff at state agencies. We’re policy champions for land conservation.

Here in Wisconsin we lead Team Knowles Nelson, a broad coalition of partners all working together to ensure that Wisconsin’s flagship environmental conservation program, The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, is well funded and functions smoothly.

At the national level, we work with the Land Trust Alliance to champion federal policies that advance land conservation work.

Portrait of Charlie Carlin

If you have questions about our advocacy work, please reach out to Charles Carlin, Director of Strategic Initiatives at 608-251-9131 x15 or

Did You Know?

57,765 (AND COUNTING!) ​

Messages sent to legislators by Team Knowles Nelson members in support of conservation efforts. Every message counts, and we make sure everyone has an opportunity to speak up.


If we don't speak up for the issues that matter to us, who will? Gathering Waters speaks up on behalf of Wisconsin's land trusts and provides the tools and resources for everyone to be a champion for Wisconsin's land and water.

$1.4 BILLION ​

Financially invested in Wisconsin's land and water through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program

Knowles Nelson Stewardship

The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program is the best source of state funding to protect Wisconsin’s land, water, wildlife, and way of life.

The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, which is administered by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, is one of Wisconsin’s proudest achievements. Since 1989, Wisconsinites have come together to care for our state’s land and water as well as build the trails, campgrounds, and boat launches that allow us to get out and enjoy Wisconsin. A portion of funding through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program is allocated specifically to land trusts.

Knowles-Nelson is a rare bipartisan success story. It is an invaluable program that will continue to thrive only with a strong community of supporters who ensure that Wisconsin’s legislators continue to prioritize protected land, clean water, and access to outdoor recreation for every Wisconsin resident.

What is the current status of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program?

Knowles-Nelson is funded through June, 2025. In the next state budget debate (2024-2025), all of Team Knowles Nelson will have to come together and advocate for robust funding and improved oversight.

Review of Knowles-Nelson projects by the legislature’s Joint Finance Committee continues to be a major issue. The committee routinely ignores state law and places indefinite holds on Knowles-Nelson grants, which has had a chilling effect on the program.

Reforming the oversight process and ensuring that funding for the Stewardship Program continues are our top two priorities.

Join Team Knowles Nelson

Your voice and your financial support make Team Knowles Nelson Strong. The team is made up of thousands of individuals and dozens of organizations committed to ensuring that the state of Wisconsin funds vital land and water conservation efforts. Together, we ensure that Wisconsin continues to invest in the Stewardship Program that provides such crucial funding to land trusts.

So what does Team Knowles-Nelson do? We research land and water conservation around the state. We promote the good work that nonprofits and local governments do with Stewardship funds. We talk to legislators, the governor, and our friends and neighbors about the importance of caring for Wisconsin’s land and water. Join today. We’ll keep you updated on our work and let you know when it’s time to raise your voice for Wisconsin’s land and water.

We make it easy to connect with your legislators at the right time and with the right message.