New Report Shows WI Conservation Funding Down Even as Outdoor Recreation Rises

The cover page of the report called This Land is Our Land and a bar graph with blue bars.

The Wisconsin Policy Forum released an in-depth report in March 2023 on the importance of natural resources in Wisconsin and the state of conservation funding. The report also lays out a range of options for how Wisconsin might better fund conservation efforts. 

Dive in and read the full report

Here are some key takeaways.

  • Outdoor recreation is a big deal, adding $8.71 billion in value to Wisconsin’s economy in 2021 and supporting more than 89,000 jobs. 
  • So is forestry. The state’s timber industry is second in the nation for total employment, supporting more than 61,000 jobs and $6.9 billion in economic activity.

Both outdoor recreation and forestry rely on us being good stewards of Wisconsin’s land, water, and wildlife.

However, state funding for the outdoors has declined significantly.

  • Money the Wisconsin DNR gets from state revenue declined over 68% since 1995.
  • Spending through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program is at a two-decade low, down 88% since 2007

Clearly, policy makers have work to do. The solutions do not have to be complicated.

This could be as simple as allocating some of the state’s record surplus to conservation, redirecting existing revenues, or creating new tax incentives.

We hope this report kicks off a meaningful and productive debate about how we collectively care for the places that make Wisconsin special.

Give the report a read and let us know what you think!

Gathering Waters is a proud grant recipient of the David. L. & Rita E. Nelson Fund at the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region. This support enabled us to partner with the Wisconsin Policy Forum on this report.