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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.

Program history

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
Reports to the Wisconsin Legislature

For copies of older reports, please contact KN Stewardship staff.