Protect Our Outdoor Heritage
Looking at the budget debates going on in Wisconsin and nationally it is hard to understand the conservative positions. Their destructive, short- sighted, and counter-productive agendas are simply “penny wise and pound foolish.” Why are they obsessed with cutting successful programs that cost pennies in comparison to the social and economic benefits?
I am a member of the North Country Trail Association (NCTA). This non-profit organizes volunteers to build and maintain the North Country National Scenic Trail which runs across Northern Wisconsin. The work we do as volunteers depends on support from the National Park Service which provides the tools, materials and supplies needed. This work is made possible by two important conservation funding programs, one federal and one state.
The federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) provides money and matching grants to federal, state and local governments for the acquisition of land and easements for conservation purposes. This provides funding for outdoor recreation projects and the protection of natural treasures in parks, forests and wildlife areas. The LWCF is paid for by fees from offshore oil and gas leases so it costs the general taxpayers nothing.
The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program is a state fund that has been an effective tool for protecting over 500,000 acres of land since it was enacted in 1989. Stewardship lands are an investment for future generations that benefit all Wisconsinites. The Stewardship Program supports many projects: protecting habitat, connecting youth to the outdoors, and creating outdoor recreational opportunities such as hunting, boating, camping, fishing and hiking.
The Stewardship program is critical to the North Country Trail and the Ice Age Trail for purchasing land and easements. It also provides matching money for federal funds. In 2014, the North Country Trail brought $958,000 in value to Wisconsin just from federal investment in the trail and the value of 13,342 hours of volunteer labor.
Both of these programs support recreational and conservation needs of our community and help support our local Wisconsin economy. Outdoor recreation and tourism is a big part of our economy in northern Wisconsin. But both are falling victim to budget cuts. The Land and Water Conservation Fund is up for re-authorization. Governor Walker wants to put the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program on hold until 2028.
Citizens concerned about the environment, conservation, or who enjoy outdoor recreation need to contact their legislators to advocate for these programs.
Land and Water Conservation Fund
The Land Trust Alliance http://www.landtrustalliance.org/policy/public-funding/lwcf-and-forest-legacy
North Country Trails Association https://northcountrytrail.org/get-involved/advocacy/
Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program