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Apply (LUG)
for grants eligible for local units of government.
Apply (NCO)
for grants eligible for nonprofit conservation orgnaizations.
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Stewardship Grant lands.
Contact information
For more information, see:
Stewardship grant contact list

Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program GrantsGrants to friends groups

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Through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, the Wisconsin Legislature has allocated $46 million annually through 2020 to provide outdoor recreation opportunities, protect sensitive lands, and conserve and restore wildlife habitat. Each year, $250,000 from the Stewardship program are set aside for grants to friends groups and nonprofit conservation organizations (NCOs) to improve facilities, build new recreation projects and restore habitat on state properties. The program recognizes the important role friends groups play in meeting the development and restoration needs of state properties.

How much money is available

A total of $250,000 is available each year for grants under this program, with a limit of $20,000 per property. Depending on the number of applicants, there may be competition for available funds. Funding for large projects may be applied for in three phases with a limit of $20,000 per year or a maximum of $60,000 per project. There must be a usable component of the project at the end of each phase.

Grants awarded

Grants are awarded for up to 50 percent of project costs. The other 50 percent of project costs shall be provided by the project sponsor. Up to 50 percent of the sponsor's share of project costs may be non-cash donations such of materials, equipment use, services and labor.

Who can apply

Who can apply

Eligible friends groups must be nonstock, nonprofit corporations described under Section 501(c)(3) or (4) of the Internal Revenue Code and exempt from taxation under section 501(a) and in good standing with the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions. In addition, the group must have formed to raise funds for a state property and also have a written friends agreement with the DNR.

Eligible NCOs must be nonprofit corporations, charitable trusts or other nonprofit associations described in Section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and exempt from taxation under section 501 (a). In addition, the purpose of the organization must include the acquisition of property for conservation purposes.

Eligibility

Eligible projects

The first 5 eligibility requirements below existed before this program guidance document. Eligibility requirement #6 is new and helps clarify the Department's expectation for projects that take more than one year to complete (also called "multi-phased projects"). This clarification is included based on comments the Department received from sponsors about their multi-phased projects. Projects must meet all of the following requirements as per s. NR 51.83, Wis. Admin. Code:

  • The project is for nature-based outdoor recreation as defined in s. NR 51.002(19) any activity where the primary focus or purpose is the appreciation or enjoyment of nature. These activities may include but are not limited to: hiking, bicycling, wildlife or nature observation, camping, nature study, fishing, hunting, trapping, public shooting range, boating, picnicking, cross-country skiing, canoeing, and multi-use trail activities. Eligible support facilities for these activities may include but are not limited to: access roads, parking areas, utility, and sanitation systems, sanitary and shelter building, signs, interpretive item, and other features that enhance nature-based outdoor recreation or improved disabled accessibility. Playgrounds and playground facilities that supplement the appreciation of nature and occupy a minor portion of the property are also eligible. Ineligible activities include but are not limited to: extensively developed open space such as dedicated sports fields, swimming pools, and tennis courts.
  • The project addresses unmet needs consistent with DNR approved plans for the property, unless the project is for a state trail managed and maintained by a governmental unit or other cooperator with a memorandum of agreement with the DNR.
  • The project is identified in a property's plan, unless the project is habitat restoration project described in s. NR 51.84(2)(e) or the project is for a state trail managed and maintained by a governmental unit or other cooperator with a memorandum of agreement with the DNR.
  • The project makes long-term capital improvements or installs durable equipment with an expected useful life of 20 years or more, unless it is a habitat restoration project[as described in s. NR 51.84(2)(e)] that is consistent with approved plans governing the management of the property.
  • The application has submitted required reports and returned any unused funds for all prior projects within the required timeframe.
  • The project is a stand-alone project, the first phase of a multi-phased project, or a multi-phased project for which the DNR will have awarded $60,000 or less in Friends grants for all phases.

What expenses are eligible?

Grant funds may be spent on:

  • materials, supplies, services and labor;
  • salaries and fringe benefits, if directly related to the project;
  • rental or lease of equipment to perform the project;
  • building and land restoration, if project adds to the permanent inventory or resources of the property; and
  • furnishings (e.g., furniture) only if part of a larger development project and amounts to six percent or less of total project costs. Contact the Bureau of Parks and Recreation early in your planning process to verify that your furnishings will qualify.

Grant funds may not be spent on:

  • administrative overhead;
  • equipment such as computers, AV equipment, tools and shop equipment;
  • educational materials such as brochures, videos and books.

Because program funds originate from bonded money, a development project must be a permanent improvement, having a life expectancy of 20 years or more.

Deadlines

Application deadline - November 15th

Project timelines

Projects should not be started until you receive your signed grant contract and should be completed within two years. Any costs that are incurred for a project prior to the signed grant contract will not be eligible for reimbursement except planning, contracting and engineering (with the provision that if the grant is not approved or completed funds will not be issued toward these costs).

How to apply

How to apply

Step 1:

Start planning your project early and contact your DNR Property Manager about your project goals.

Step 2:

To apply for a State Property grant, complete the following:

Step 3:

Submit the application form with project description and justification criteria, cost estimate worksheet, Resolution, Location Map, and Detailed Site Plan to the Property Manager for approval and required signatures.

Step 4:

Submit the completed application and attachments to the Friends Grant Program Manager either via email or postmarked by the application due date of November 15th.
Contact Information

Beth Norquist, Friends Grant Program Manager
Department of Natural Resources
1300 W Clairemont Ave
Eau Claire WI 54701

Ranking

Project selection priorities

Application scoring is new to this grant program. Now that the Department is receiving more applications than available funding, the Department must identify a way to prioritize projects for grant funding. Assigning a score for each application component is a commonly used method. Projects that meet the goal of the Friends Grant Program score the highest; projects are ranked based on score. Funds are awarded beginning with the highest scored project ... until all funds are allocated.

DNR staff will review each application for eligibility consistent with required criteria described in the 'Eligible Project' section of this guidance. Eligible projects will then be scored on questions A1 - A4 below. Questions T1 - T5 will be used to rank projects that score equally on questions A1 - A4. When all projects have been scored, grants will be awarded to projects received from Friends Groups in rank order. If funds remain, grants will be awarded to NCOs in rank order. Applicant prioritization is per provisions of s. NR 51.84(1) Wis. Admin. Code.

Project Rating & Ranking Questions - Based on s. NR 51.83 Eligibility and s. NR 51.84 Priorities
  Question Max Points Earned Points Comments
A1.1 Project provides capital improvement and or habitat work that directly provides nature-based outdoor recreation opportunities 2 2 If direct, then 2 points, if indirect, then only 1 point. For example, kitchen, restrooms, etc., would be direct. Indirect items would be playground equipment, kiosk, trail signs.
A1.20 Project provides capital improvements and or habitat work that indirectly provides nature-based outdoor recreation opportunities 2 1 If direct, then 2 points, if indirect, then only 1 point. For example, kitchen, restrooms, etc., would be direct. Indirect items would be playground equipment, kiosk, trail signs.
A1.3 Applicant has requested funding for 25% or less of the total project cost 2 2 "Other funding" defined as sources other than Friends cash or force account (i.e. in-kind) services. If applicant is meeting their match with Friends cash or donated labor from Friends, then zero points.
A1.4 Applicant has requested funds for 25-45% or less of the total project cost 2 1 "Other funding" defined as sources other than Friends cash or force account (i.e. in-kind) services. If applicant is meeting their match with Friends cash or donated labor from Friends, then zero points.
A2.1 Project provides a new type of, or access to, a nature-based outdoor recreation that is not currently available at the property. 3 3 Projects that expand or modify existing infrastructure to provide new recreation opportunities that meet or exceed applicable accessibility standards qualifies for full points (3).
A2-2 Project expands availability and/or access to nature-based outdoor recreation activities that currently exist at the property 3 2 Projects that expand or modify existing infrastructure to provide new recreation opportunities that meet or exceed applicable accessibility standards qualifies for full points (3).
A3.1 Project addresses completely an identified public health, safety, or security concern at the property 3 3 Environmental concerns often include invasive species and energy efficiency.
A3.2 Project contributes to an identified public health, safety, or security concern at the property. 3 1 Environmental concerns often include invasive species and energy efficiency.
A3.3 Project fully addresses or contributes to addressing a priority environmental concern at the property. 3 1 Environmental concerns often include invasive species and energy efficiency.
A4.1 Capital improvement or habitat projects that directly expand environmental education, interpretation programs, or outdoor skills development opportunities or facilities 2 2  
A4.2 Capital improvement or habitat projects that enhance or expand existing environmental education, interpretation programs, or outdoor skills development opportunities or facilities. 2 1  
  TOTAL MAXIMUM SCORE = 12    
  Tie-breaker Questions      
T1 The project directly supports volunteer-based services provided at the property by the Friends Group 1 1  
T2 The project reduces property maintenance & operation needs. 1 1  
T3 The applicant is a first time applicant for a grant. 1 1  
T4 The project supports a DNR program priority. 1 1  
T5 The project is a multiple phased project that has already recived funds for the 1st or 2nd phases. 1 1 This supports completion of a started project.

Help

For more information and application forms

Please contact your DNR Property Manager about project application or the Friends Grant Manager for grant questions.

Friends Grant Manager
Beth Norquist
Dept of Natural Resources
1300 W Clairemont Ave
Eau Claire, WI 54701
Phone 715-839-3751

For more information on becoming an official friend of a particular state park, forest or trail, go to Bureau of Parks and Recreation.

Last revised: Tuesday September 19 2017