National Great Outdoors Month

Like many other people in western Wisconsin, I cherish each and every opportunity I have to explore our area’s amazing natural activities and sceneries. Whether going kayaking in the Chippewa River or walking on the Great River Trail, state parks have been one of my favorite places for outdoor recreation. With June being National Great Outdoors Month as well as the fact that the outdoor recreation industry has contributed $7.8 billion to the state’s GDP, it’s only natural that I encourage you to also enjoy it.

Over the past year, more Wisconsinites have been able to enjoy the great outdoors, with attendance increasing 81% since 2020. To ensure that Wisconsinites can continue to enjoy the activities and sceneries provided by state parks throughout Wisconsin, in the most recent budget, I strongly advocated for, and passed, a provision to extend the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program for four more years and provide $33.25 million in funding each year. This program helps protect natural areas and habitats, preserve water quality and thus, ensure that Wisconsinites have plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation.

These stewardship funds were fundamental, as I authored a provision in the budget to use that money to leverage $19 million in additional federal funds for the improvement and restoration of Lake Pepin along the Mississippi River. This incredibly important program for not only our area and Bay City, but for the Mississippi River, will create additional fish and wildlife habitats, improve water clarity, and restore public boat access to Upper Lake Pepin.

It is also important that we protect our local governments from the loss of any property tax following the purchasing of property by the state. That is why I supported a provision in the budget that tripled the state’s reimbursement to municipalities under the Payment In Lieu of Taxes Program to ouset the municipality’s loss of revenue from the department-owned land.

In addition to funding nature and wildlife preservation through the Stewardship Program, the budget provided $4.3 million to fully fund the state’s share of two county conservationists in each county while also providing $1.5 million per year in the State Park Development Fund which allows parks to complete small-scale projects, such as buying picnic tables and improving trails, to ensure that the park can continue to accommodate visitors of vast volumes. These small-scale projects play an incredibly important role and funding for these projects is essential to ensure that visitors have an enjoyable experience.

What’s more, the budget increased funding for the Motorized Stewardship Program, which is used to help expand and maintain ATV/ UTV trails in our area. The budget increased funding by 50% for more trail development and infrastructure. This also includes an increase of funds for snowmobile trail maintenance and mapping.

This is only a part of how the budget continues to preserve and protect our ability to explore and observe Wisconsin’s beautiful nature, water, and wildlife. I recognize Wisconsinites’ growing fondness for exploring Wisconsin’s natural beauty and the growing need for investments in our State Parks to ensure that all Wisconsinites are provided with opportunities to have enjoyable visits to such state treasures!

June 21, 2022