We are long time Wisconsin residents and co-owners of a small business in Door County. As such, we are keenly aware of how important our lands and waters are to our local economy and community.
A prime reason people come to Door County is because they can do the things they love in a beautiful place; whether it’s boating, biking, hiking, dining or shopping. We all know the impact of tourism dollars here and thus maintaining and improving our natural environment and waters is critical.
Door County residents are fortunate that the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program has been a strong conservation partner for the last 30 years, enabling protection of sensitive lands and funding outdoor recreation opportunities in this area and throughout Wisconsin. Our five state parks plus the Mink River Preserve have benefited from this program as has the Peshtigo River State Forest and Wild Rivers Legacy Forest in the Green Bay watershed.
There is more work to be done, to keep our lakes and rivers clean, protect groundwater and provide opportunities for people to enjoy the benefits of being outdoors in nature.
The Stewardship Program must be reauthorized and funded in Wisconsin’s biennial budget or it will no longer exist. In the past, it has been reauthorized for 10 years at a time with bipartisan support. Conservation projects take time. The current state budget proposal only extends the Stewardship Program through 2022. Action is needed now.
On Wednesday, April 24, from 10 am to 5 pm, the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance will hold a public meeting at the UW-Green Bay University Union. This is an important opportunity to speak for the Stewardship Program and the lands and waters it helps to protect.
Now is the time to let our elected officials know that protecting Wisconsin’s lands and waters is essential. To do that effectively, the Stewardship Program must be reauthorized for another 10 years. We need to recommit to the protection of the lands and waters we love!
Ray Pelrine and Martha Luber Pelrine
(Trustee, The Nature Conservancy-Wisconsin)
Sister Bay, Wis.