Wisconsin TU Opposes Stewardship Changes as proposed in SB 270 / AB 338

The Wisconsin Council of Trout Unlimited (WITU) strongly urges Wisconsin’s Legislature to oppose changes to the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship program as proposed in SB 270 / AB 338.


SB 270 / AB 338, if passed, would require the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to spend up to $50 million over the next 10 years buying land already owned by a State Agency – the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands.  Given the tough fiscal situation the DNR currently faces, this would be irresponsible waste of taxpayer dollars.  The bill would also cut the Stewardship Land Acquisition budget from $9 million to $2 million in the next biennium budget, eliminating the acquisition of many high quality hunting and fishing lands.


One component of the Stewardship Land Acquisition budget, the Streambank Protection Program, has been very successful in expanding public access to fisheries and growing the trout angling economy. 


“The economic impact that anglers pump into the Wisconsin economy more than merits the Streambank Protection Program” said Henry Koltz, a national Trout Unlimited Trustee and Wisconsin Trout Unlimited’s immediate past-Chair.


A recent study by the American Sportfishing Association revealed that Wisconsin is the third highest ranked fishing destination in the country, with over 335,000 visitors spending over $445 million each year, and total retail sales by all anglers exceed $1.4 billion. In total, Wisconsin fishing accounts for over $2 billion in annual economic impact, supporting over 21,000 jobs creating over $665 million in salaries and wages, and resulting in over $148 million in local and state tax revenue.


Sportfishing in America: An Economic Force for Conservation


In 2016, Trout Unlimited commissioned a study of recreational trout angling in the Driftless Area (which includes parts of Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois).  The study revealed that anglers have a total economic impact of $1.6 billion in the region annually.  The study also found that over 55% of anglers cited “easy stream and river access” as a factor in their decision to trout fish in the Driftless Area. 


Economic Impact Report of Trout Angling in the Driftless Area


In short, Stewardship acquisitions allowing for public access are a sound economic decision, with a clear and significant return-on-investment for Wisconsin.  WITU urges the Legislature to protect funding of the Stewardship program and oppose the cuts proposed in SB 270 / AB 338.


Read the full Bill Text HERE


Dear (Insert your Legislator's name here),


I am writing to urge your opposition to SB 270 and AB 338 regarding the Knowles Nelson Stewardship Program.


Forcing the DNR to spend up to $50 million dollars of Stewardship funding over the next 10 years to BUY LAND ALREADY OWNED AND HELD IN TRUST by the State is irresponsible.  Cutting the Land Acquistions budget by $7 million over the next 2 years would also be a mistake.  Wisconsin would be better served by fully funding the Stewardship Land Acquisitions budget and allowing the DNR to continue investing in high quality outdoor recreation areas.  These proposed cuts could jeopardize the DNR's Streambank Protection Program, which provides anglers with public fishing access easements on hundreds of trout streams throught our state.  Easy fishing access is crucial to the growth of Wisconsin's $1.4 Billion fishing industry (source: American Sportfishing Association).   


Stewardship acquisitions allowing for public access are a sound economic decision, with a clear and significant return-on-investment for Wisconsin.  I urge you to oppose the cuts proposed in SB 270 / AB 338.


Thank you for your time and for your commitment to public service,