About the Stewardship Program
Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program
In 1989, Governor Tommy Thompson and the Wisconsin Legislature created the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program (or Stewardship Fund) to preserve valuable natural areas and wildlife habitat, protect water quality and fisheries and expand opportunities for outdoor recreation.
The Stewardship fund gives DNR spending authority to purchase land and easement additions to state properties. Stewardship dollars also support recreational infrastructure on state properties, including campsite, restroom and trail improvements.
Most annual Stewardship spending takes the form of grants to local governments and nonprofits. Stewardship grants fund local park infrastructure, boat ramp facilities, recreational trails and land purchases for parks and nature preserves statewide.
The Wisconsin Legislature created the Stewardship fund in 1989 to preserve valuable wildlife habitat and natural areas, protect water quality and fisheries, and expand opportunities for outdoor recreation.
In 1993, the Stewardship Program was renamed the Warren Knowles-Gaylord Nelson Stewardship program after two of Wisconsin's revered conservation leaders, Warren Knowles (governor 1965-1971) and Gaylord Nelson (governor 1959-1963, U.S. Senator 1964-1981).
From its inception, the Stewardship program has funded not just DNR land acquisition and recreational development, but a family of grant subprograms through which local communities and nonprofits, matching the state investment dollar-for-dollar, have expanded parks and public nature preserves. Stewardship dollars have been invested in every one of Wisconsin’s 72 counties.
The Stewardship Program started as a 10-year, $250,000,000 program. The program has been revised several times since. The current iteration supports DNR land purchases, capital development and 11 grant programs.
Reports and publications
- Stewardship-related publications
- Legislative Fiscal Bureau Informational Paper #61 (Jan 2019)
- Wisconsin's Stewardship Fund Enters a New Era - Natural Resource Magazine Supplement DNR PUB-CE-4019 October 2008
- Stories of Stewardship
- Governor’s Blue Ribbon Task Force report 2000
- Reports to the Wisconsin Legislature
- Properties Purchased With Funds From The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program On Which One Or More Nature-Based Outdoor Activities Is Prohibited July 1, 2015 - June 30, 2017 DNR PUB-LF-077 2017
- Properties Purchased With Funds From The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program On Which One Or More Nature-Based Outdoor Activities Is Prohibited July 1, 2013 - June 30, 2015 DNR PUB-LF-077 2015
- Properties Purchased With Funds From The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program On Which One Or More Nature-Based Outdoor Activities Is Prohibited July 1, 2011 - June 30, 2013
- Knowles-Nelson Stewardship lands & public access restrictions and/or prohibitions for the period 1990 to October 27, 2007
For copies of older reports, please contact KN Stewardship staff.