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Tom Stolp of Milwaukee is field director of the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters. Marc Schultz of Onalaska is a board member of the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters Institute.

Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to freeze land purchases through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program puts our most valuable lands at risk and is bad news for Wisconsin’s economy.

Wisconsin has a long, proud history of bipartisan support for the programs that protect our beautiful outdoors. The Nelson-Knowles Stewardship Program — named for Govs. Warren Knowles (a Republican) and Gaylord Nelson (a Democrat) — is one such program.

It’s a public-private partnership that purchases and protects some of the most spectacular and diverse lands and waters in Wisconsin. These are central to the Wisconsin way of life, providing the public with areas to hunt, hike, fish, bike and canoe.

Walker’s reckless budget proposal would eliminate funding for most land acquisition by the Stewardship Program until 2028. His justification is that we can’t afford it, but he couldn’t be more wrong.

The program’s benefits to Wisconsin — and Wisconsinites — go far beyond providing us with pretty places to enjoy on a warm spring day. Lands and waters supported by the Stewardship Program contribute to Wisconsin’s economy in irreplaceable ways.

Wisconsin’s $13 billion tourism industry and $4 billion hunting and fishing industry rely on acquisition of public lands. People come from all corners of the state — and across state borders — to fish in our trout-laden streams, hunt on our vast public lands, and hike our beautiful trails. Investments through the Stewardship Program have served as the backbone of Wisconsin’s outdoor recreation industry.

We can point to local examples of the positive impact of Stewardship investment. The Eagle Eye State Natural Area is a 70-acre tract of land that was protected through a partnership between Mississippi Valley Conservancy, Mississippi Valley Archaeology Center, The Archaeological Conservancy and leveraging funding from the Stewardship Program. It includes scenic ridgetop bluffland, including native goat prairie, oak opening, sandstone cliffs and rock shelters, forest, wetlands, and a portion of the Bad Axe River.

The property is in the National Register of Historic Places for its eagle-eye rock shelter and seven effigy mounds. The area’s cultural and conservation significance are priceless. It also serves as an economic engine for local tourism. The land is open to the public for hiking, hunting, fishing, snow-shoeing and cross-country skiing, and it is a popular trout-fishing location.

Or take the famed Ice Age Trail — segments of which were purchased with stewardship dollars. This trail alone generates more than $133 million annually. It supports nearly 1,500 jobs annually, and Wisconsin’s entire outdoor recreation industry accounts for more than 140,000 jobs across the state.

But Walker’s proposal to end the Stewardship Program would jeopardize this tourism income in the future.

Wisconsin’s recreation industry extends beyond beautiful trails to the offerings of our lakes and streams, which we have access to thank to Stewardship easement programs. Anglers across the state spend $1.4 billion each year, including $445 million from out-of-state tourists who flock to fish in Wisconsin’s fresh water. This sector of the outdoor recreation industry alone supports more than 21,500 jobs.

And tourism is just one sector sustained by our public lands. Our $22 billion forestry industry includes sustainable timber harvesting in forests protected by the Stewardship Program. Freezing the state’s ability to continue acquiring forested land would put this industry’s future at risk as well.

At a time when Wisconsin needs revenue due to a state budget deficit, Walker’s proposal to freeze the Stewardship Program is counterproductive and shortsighted.Wisconsin’s remaining open spaces face increasing development pressure. If we don’t preserve them, they may be lost forever to development. And the price to preserve what may be left in 2028 could be exorbitant, as all signs point to our land increasing in value.

If we stop investing in vital and vulnerable lands today, money saved will quickly become money lost.

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Tom Stolp of Milwaukee is field director of the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters. Marc Schultz of Onalaska is a board member of the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters Institute.


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(11) comments


Wisconsin owes 1 BILLION in interest and principal over the next 20 years on the Stewardship land buys. The state pays 15 MILLION a year in payments in lieu of taxes to local governments for public land. (Since it is no longer on the tax roll) I believe the government owns at least 18% of the land in Wisconsin. Most states, it is half of that. There is still a 54 MILLION dollar budget set aside each year for Conservancy. Walker just wants to stop an increase. The 4% cut to the DNR is also needed. The government just cannot keep spending taxpayer money for MORE MORE MORE. Taxpayers cannot afford it. Government has become a cancer, that is growing, feeding on the taxpayers. Soon its host will die!.

"When town officials balked, the MVC had no other option but annexation to meet its "long-standing contractual obligation" with the city, MVC Executive Director Tim Jacobson said"


BTW: Discharging a bow/firearm is also a violation of city ordinance.


And here's the link to the CITY OF LA CROSSE Parks and Rec website showing areas open to public hunting.


Oldhomey- Olderthandirt just remembered, that is the same public land that NASA will be taking him out to hunt on since he is older than dirt...He will need NASA and that accessible public land to continue his hunting...ha!


Let's hear some more from oldderthandirt and anonymous to see if they can sway us. Or perhaps they might like to concede that their earlier posts were in error.

Condor Kid

We simply must not allow Walker and his cronies to turn Wisconsin into an industrial waste land!


Hey anonymous 6450 MVC bluffland purchased with City dollars is ALL open to public hunting; I hunt it every year, it's posted on the trailheads and the websites. Go to the DNR website and it will tell you exactly how many acres there are, where they are, and even give you maps to get there.

I would gladly pay more taxes to support natural resources, having clean air, clean water, and places to hike and hunt are invaluable. I moved here from Iowa, where my well was bad, the air smelled like chicken confinements and the nearest "nature preserve" was a railroad right-of-way that wasn't cropped.


All you have to do to find said public land is visit WI DNR's website...A 10 second google search of "Wisconsin Public Land" will be more then the information anonymous is asking for. As far as land zoned too close to city limits for hunting, this land can be used for mushroom hunters, bikes, walking trails, bird watching, dog walkers...Just because you can't hunt with firearms on the land does not deem it worthless to the public. Olderthandirt, if you read the article you see this is not breaking the bank. In fact that land belongs to you and me and will be there for our future generations.


The koch bros. have plans for our forest land. For their paper product divisions. Go Figure.


Until they can tell me EXACTLY how many acres there are, where they are, and how many of those acres are open to the public for hunting, I agree let's STOP.

Any of the MVC bluff land that was purchased with City of La Crosse Dollars is CLOSED to hunting as it is required to be annexed by ordinance, and there is no hunting within the city. Yes, these may be public lands, but they aren't open for hunting.


We cannot afford to buy anymore land with taxpayer money. Check out how much land the government owns in Wisconsin, compared to other states. The interest we are paying, for the borrowed funds to purchase stewardship land is ridiculous! There is enough public use land now that is not maintained or used. These entitlement programs are breaking the bank. They start small then add employees, grow bigger and bigger each year.

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