Read the Report: This Land is Our Land – The Past and Future of Conservation Funding in Wisconsin
The Wisconsin Policy Forum released an in-depth report on the state of conservation funding in Wisconsin. The report lays out a range of options for how Wisconsin might better fund conservation efforts.
Some key takeaways:
- Outdoor recreation is a big deal in Wisconsin. Outdoor recreation added $8.71 billion in value to Wisconsin’s economy in 2021 and supported more than 89,000 jobs. The industry accounted for 2.4% of state GDP compared to 1.9% nationally.
- So is forestry. The state’s timber industry is second in the nation for total employment and supports more than 61,000 jobs and more than $6.9 billion in economic activity.
- Both outdoor recreation and forestry rely on us being good stewards of Wisconsin’s land, water, and wildlife.
- However, since 1995 funding for the DNR from state revenues, called General Purpose Revenue (GPR), declined 68.8% when adjusted for inflation.
- Spending through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program is at a two-decade low. Only $14.1 million was spent in 2022, down 88% since 2007, when adjusted for inflation.
- Clearly, policy makers have work to do to support our outdoor heritage and the lands and waters that sustain us.
- The solutions do not have to be complicated. Given our record surplus, we could simply allocate state revenues to conservation and meet our needs.
- The report also explores a number of other options for restoring funding for Knowles-Nelson and for conservation. These include redirecting sales or real estate tax revenues, creating new tax incentives for conservation, or considering new user fees.