DNR Cuts Back on Stewardship Purchases

 Tom Larson  |    March 03, 2011

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource (DNR) recently announced that it will reduce spending on all land purchases made through Wisconsin’s Stewardship program for at least the next year. REALTORS® should be aware that this could impact any pending Stewardship purchases, and any related appraisal work for the rest of the year.

The DNR indicates that the cutbacks are necessary to help balance the state budget, which currently has a $3.6 billion deficit. All state agencies are being asked to closely review their operations to assist in balancing the current state budget and to limit the state’s liabilities in future budgets.

Accordingly, the DNR is currently reviewing all of its processes and procedures for Stewardship grants and purchases. The goal is to maximize the benefits to taxpayers from the Stewardship Fund in a time of very limited resources. The DNR estimates that a complete review will take several months. During this time, the DNR will concentrate on fine-tuning acquisition priorities, land management activities and assessing surplus land for sale or exchange for other, more valuable, conservation land.

Currently, the DNR spends approximately $86 million in bonding for Stewardship land purchases. In 2007, the legislature increased the amount of bonding for Stewardship from $60 million to $86 million. Annual interest alone on Stewardship bonding is estimated to be between $29 and $31 million, with additional bonding adding to those annual costs.

Since 1990, the Stewardship program has protected and opened more than 600,000 acres of Wisconsin to our citizens. The program purchases land for a variety of public purposes including forestry and outdoor recreational activities such as hunting, fishing, hiking and skiing.

The WRA has supported the creation and funding of the Stewardship program in the past, and will continue to monitor any proposed changes to the program.

For more information, please contact Tom Larson (tlarson@wra.org) at (608) 240-8254.

Tom Larson is Chief Lobbyist and Director of Legal and Public Affairs for the WRA.

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