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

Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program grantsFederal grants administered with local units of government Stewardship grants

These following two federal grant programs are administered in conjunction with the Stewardship local assistance grants. The programs fund projects that are similar to the Stewardship Local Assistance Grant programs. One primary difference is that the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and Recreational Trails Program (RTA) programs are not restricted to nature-based outdoor recreation projects. In these programs nature-based outdoor recreation projects do compete against projects with non-nature based recreation elements for LWCF funds. Another difference is that federal programs have additional requirements that must be satisfied - e.g., compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, the Historic Preservation Act, the Civil Rights Act, etc. Department of Natural Resources grant staff can help with understanding and fulfilling these requirements.

The Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Recreational Trails Program are dependent on the federal budget process. It is anticipated that funds will be available. However, the selection and awarding of grants for these programs will be dependent on the availability of the grant funds from the federal government.

Land and Water Conservation Fund

Land and Water Conservation Fund

Land and Water Conservation Act, Public Law 88 578, ch. NR 50.06, Wis.

Program goal

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) encourages nationwide creation and interpretation of high quality outdoor recreational opportunities. The program funds both state and local outdoor recreation activities.

Eligible applicants

Political subdivisions of the state (towns, villages, cities, counties, tribal governments and school districts) are eligible to apply for grants for acquisition and/or development of public outdoor recreation areas and facilities.

Funding criteria for evaluating projects

Criteria listed here are not in priority order.

  • Relationship to the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (activities must be in locally approved plans)
  • Regional or statewide in nature
  • Acquires land where a plan supports need
  • Provides or enhances water-based activity
  • Serves the greatest populations
  • Involves other local government's, cooperation, volunteers and local donations
  • First time applicants
  • Sponsor has completed past projects
  • Provides multi-season, multi-activity use
  • Nature-based restriction does not apply
  • Basic over elaborate facilities
  • Participant over spectator facilities

Eligible projects

  1. Land acquisition
  2. Development of outdoor recreational facilities, including active sports facilities
  3. LWCF can also fund projects eligible for the Stewardship Acquisition & Development of Local Parks Program.

Recreational Trails Program

Recreational Trails Program

Public Law 102-240, ch. NR 50.21, Wis. Adm. Code

The Recreational Trails Program (RTA) provides funds through the transfer of federal gas excise taxes paid on fuel used on off-highway vehicles. These funds are used to develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities for both motorized and non-motorized recreational trail uses. This federal program was initially authorized in 1991, re-authorized in 1998 under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA - 21), and reauthorized in 2005 and subsequent biennia as the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, or (SAFETEA-LU).

Recreational Trails Program funds may only be used on trails which have been identified in or which further a specific goal of a local, county or state trail plan included or referenced in a statewide comprehensive outdoor recreation plan required by the Federal LWCF Program. Thirty percent of the funds must be used on motorized trail uses, 30 percent on non-motorized trail uses and 40 percent on diversified (multiple) trail uses. See trail use funding category definitions below. There ordinarily is a grant cap of $45,000 per grant per fiscal year. For grants issued in 2012, the grant cap will be increased to $200,000 for two-thirds of the available funding. The remaining one-third will retain the $45,000 grant cap.

Eligible applicants

Towns, villages, cities, counties, tribal governing bodies, school districts, state agencies, federal agencies or incorporated organizations are eligible to apply for funds. Incorporated organizations are those that are incorporated under s. 181.32, Wis. Stats., whose primary purpose is promoting, encouraging or engaging in outdoor recreation trails activities.

Eligible projects and funding priorities

Eligible projects in order of priority are:

  1. maintenance and restoration of existing trails;
  2. development and rehabilitation of trailside and trailhead facilities and trail linkages;
  3. construction of new trails (with certain restrictions on federal lands*); and
  4. acquisition of property for trails.

*Construction of new trails crossing federal lands only where permissible under other law, necessary and required by a statewide comprehensive outdoor recreation plan, approved by the DNR and the administering federal agency and consistent with applicable federal land management plans and policies.

Trail use funding category definitions

Non-motorized (30%)
  1. Non-motorized project for a single use - projects that benefit only one mode of non-motorized recreational trail use, such as pedestrian only or equestrian only; projects serving various pedestrian uses (e.g., walking, hiking, wheelchair use, running, nature interpretation, etc.) constitute a single use; human powered snow uses (e.g., skiing, snowshoeing, etc.) constitute a single use.
  2. Non-motorized diverse use - projects that benefit more than one mode of non-motorized recreational trail use (e.g., walking, biking, skating or pedestrian use) in summer and skiing in the winter.
Motorized (30%)
  1. Motorized project for a single use - projects that benefit only one mode of motorized recreational use (e.g., snowmobile trail grooming). The project may also benefit some non-motorized uses, but the primary intent must be for the benefit of motorized use.
  2. Motorized diverse use - projects that benefit more than one mode of motorized recreational trail use such motorcycle and ATV, ATV use in the summer and snowmobile use in the winter; projects that also benefit some non-motorized uses as long as the primary intent is for the benefit of motorized use.
Diversified (40%)
  1. Non-motorized diverse use (see above under "Non-motorized")
  2. Motorized diverse use (see above under "Motorized")
  3. Diverse use including both motorized and non-motorized uses - projects where the primary intent is for the benefit of both non-motorized and motorized (e.g., the primary beneficiary is not motorized); also includes when the non-motorized and motorized uses are separated by season (e.g., equestrian use in the summer and snowmobile use in the winter). Other examples include a common trailhead project serving separate ATV and bicycle trails.
Last revised: Tuesday March 21 2017