Report Shows Wisconsin Conservation Funding Down Even as Outdoor Recreation Rises

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.
This Land is Our Land Report Cover