Analysis Highlights Importance of Stewardship

Governor Doyle announced today that a review of the Assembly Republicans’ proposed budget cuts to the state’s Stewardship program shows that more than 60 percent of Stewardship-related projects likely would not have happened if the Assembly’s proposed funding levels been in place since the program was last reauthorized in 2000.  The analysis was released by the Department of Natural Resources today.


“The Stewardship program represents one of Wisconsin’s most basic values: protecting our natural resources even in tight budget times,” Governor Doyle said.  “The Assembly’s budget is a direct assault on those values, and sets Wisconsin land conservation back two whole decades.”


Analysis shows that had the Assembly Republicans’ proposed funding levels been in place since the program was last reauthorized in 2000, over two-thirds of the properties would not have been protected for public use and the state would not have been able to fully participate in the highly successful federal-state-local partnership that provided nearly 60,000 acres statewide. Projects that might not have been purchased or established as a result include:


·         Willow Flowage

·         Rainbow Flowage

·         Lower Wisconsin Riverway (thousands of adjoining acreage)

·         Tommy Thompson State Park

·         Straight Lake State Park

·         Lower Chippewa River State Natural Area

·         Peshtigo River State Forest

·         10 new state trails totaling 292 miles


The Assembly Republicans’ version of the state budget drastically slashes the current Stewardship Program by 60 percent overall – from $60 million per year to $25 million per year beginning in fiscal year 2008 – and represents a 75 percent decrease from the Governor’s proposed reauthorization of $105 million.  The Assembly budget would provide only $25 million annually to the Stewardship Program through the year 2020, cutting $800 million from the Governor’s and Senate’s funding proposals for fiscal years 2010-11 through 2019-20. 


The DNR analysis also states that the Assembly proposal of $25 million in annual Stewardship funding would restrict protection of additional land and would jeopardize millions of matching federal dollars.  Under the Assembly’s proposal, annual funding would not match that provided under the original Stewardship program in 1990, because increases in recreational land values have exceeded 600 percent since that time.


 “Our natural resources are one of the main reasons why people want to live, vacation, and move here, and why businesses want to relocate and expand here,” Governor Doyle said. “The future of our state is closely linked to our natural resources, but if Assembly Republicans would have their way, great natural places across the state – from the Willow Flowage to the Ice Age and Hank Aaron state trails – might not have been protected.  If this budget had been in place from the beginning of the program, lands like those could been lost forever.” 


The Legislature provided $23.1 million annually for the inception of the Stewardship Fund in 1990 and increased annual funding to $46 million in 2000 and to $60 million in 2002. 


Governor Doyle has made the Stewardship program a top priority since taking office, protecting more than 180,000 acres of land in 71 out of 72 counties.  He proposed reauthorizing the fund at the level of $105 million per year in his 2007-2009 biennial budget, and has called on the Legislature to reauthorize the fund at his proposed level rather than at the drastically-reduced levels proposed by Assembly Republicans.


See the DNR analysis: