Legislature Makes Drastic Cuts to Conservation Lands Budget

Legislature Makes Drastic Cuts to Conservation Lands Budget

The powerful Joint Finance Committee (JFC) of the State Legislature has passed a biennial budget proposal that would significantly cut the state’s very popular Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund that has successfully helped protect more than 225,000 acres of sensitive lands in Wisconsin. The Fund, originally authorized at $60 million/year for ten years, has been slashed by $245 million by the JFC . The Stewardship Fund is a bond program, and costs the state approximately $5 million per year to manage—not a significant amount when one considers the state budget deficit to be $3 billion! In addition, JFC has insisted that the Department of Natural Resources sell off $40 million in state lands to help with the state’s deficit. Furthermore, the Legislature is insisting on having review and oversight over every purchase made under the program…thereby making every conservation purchase political. The sweeping changes proposed for conservation land acquisitions are less a matter of fiscal concern, more a product of public land philosophy and political disparity. Governor Doyle (D) has committed to vetoing all of these proposed changes to the Stewardship Fund by the Republican-dominated State Legislature.

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Images courtesy of Steven Huyser-Honig,
West Grand Boulevard Collaborative, & Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve.