Gov. Evers’ Budget Seeks to End the Practice of Anonymous Objections to Land Conservation Projects

Wisconsin State Capitol building with snow on the lawn and blue skies
Anonymous objectors can hold up popular land conservation projects in Wisconsin. Tony Evers’ budget will seek to end the practice.

    In Governor Tony Evers budget proposal, provisions are expected to make it easier for money through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund to be distributed to groups looking to preserve land in Wisconsin.

    Gov. Evers’ proposal will include the following changes, as detailed in this article by WBAY:

    • Repeal the requirement that projects north of Highway 64 be subject to legislative review
    • Increase the threshold that triggers review of grant proposals by the Joint Committee on Finance from $250,000 to $500,000
    • Require that if a member of the Joint Committee on Finance objects to a project, that member’s name and nature of the objection be announced publicly

    The governor’s budget is due to the state legislature by February 15. These changes, if approved, could help reduce the number of issues with stewardship projects. Two recent projects that were stalled by an anonymous objection by a member of the Joint Committee on Finance include the Cedar-Gorge Clay Bluffs and Pelican River Forest.

    The hope is that fewer projects would need to go before the committee at all, making it less likely that popular conservation projects will get stalled indefinitely by a single person on the powerful finance committee. The provision for making public the name of the legislator that objects to a project seeks to achieve greater transparency for a legislative process that has big impacts and is mostly inaccessible to state residents.

    “The fact that projects can be held up indefinitely has broken the program,” said Charlie Carlin, the director of strategic initiatives for Gathering Waters: Wisconsin’s Alliance for Land Trusts in an article by the Journal Sentinel. “We are very pleased to have Gov. Evers getting started in reforming the stewardship program.”

    The governor’s budget also includes other environmental provisions to reduce invasive species, support forests and promote the forestry industry, and bolster the clean energy workforce in the state. Read more about these priorities in this story by Wisconsin Public Radio.

    Featured image by Katie Wheeler, 2015.

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