WITU Releases Policy Priorities for 2018-2019

The Wisconsin Council of Trout Unlimited (WITU), a statewide nonpartisan, nonprofit conservation group with over 5,200 volunteer members, has outlined its conservation policy objectives for the next year, including restoring policies that promote public fishing access, protect groundwater and surface water resources, and fully funding natural resource agencies and critical related program.


According to Council Chair Linn Beck: “not only do we fight for our coldwater resources and the trout, but in the long run, we are fighting for the most important resource that all of us need: water.”


- The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program has protected and provided public access to hundreds of miles of trout streams, via stream bank easements. This vital program allows WITU to leverage hundreds of thousands of non-state dollars to restore and improve fishing on these streams, which draw out-of-state anglers from all over the country. It is about as good a return on investment as one can find. WITU supports re-authorizing the Stewardship Program at current funding levels.


- Protections for groundwater supply have been eliminated in recent years, endangering the supply of vital flow to the spring-fed streams that support trout in Wisconsin.  Sportfishing is annually a $2 billion industry in Wisconsin, and in order for it to remain vital, WITU believes that both periodic review and the consideration of cumulative impacts should be allowed for within the high capacity well permitting process.


- Every year, trout anglers pay an extra $10 fee on their fishing license for a Trout Stamp, the funds from which go directly into habitat work that makes fishing better. Most anglers happily support paying the fee, particularly as they are aware that funding for natural resources has been reduced in recent years. However, the Trout Stamp fee has not been raised since 2006. WITU supports a moderate increase to the Trout Stamp fee, provided it continues to be managed in a segregated account that directly funds trout stream habitat improvements.


- WITU has a strong partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Whether it’s fisheries biologists improving trout habitat in streams, technicians operating heavy equipment to restore a degraded stream, or runoff management specialists working with landowners to minimize erosion from uplands, DNR staff do essential work in protecting and restoring trout streams. In recent years, funding has been slashed to these critical areas of DNR, and recent heavy equipment sales are making restoration projects more expensive to undertake. WITU supports fully funding biologist and technician positions in the Fisheries Bureau, nonpoint source pollution management specialists in the Runoff Management Bureau, and a review of the heavy equipment sales, so that our trout streams can thrive, and Wisconsin can continue to attract over 335,000 annual angling visitors. 


- The funding for county conservation departments that work with private landowners to reduce polluted runoff to trout streams is at 60% of what it was 20 years ago. WITU supports fully-funding county conservation departments, and the state funds they utilize to implement conservation on private lands.