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

Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program grantsFriends Groups Program

The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program is the name for a family of funds supporting natural resource protection and nature-based outdoor recreation in Wisconsin.

Some Stewardship funds are available as grants to local governments and nonprofit conservation organizations (known as LUGs and NCOs). Brief information about each subprogram is below. For detailed information about applying for any one of these grant programs, follow links below to application materials and contact grant staff in your region of the state. Stewardship grants can be grouped, generally, into two categories:

Grants to purchase land or conservation easements

Grants to purchase land or fund recreational development on public lands

Grants to friends groups for development on state lands

See section 23.098, Wis. Stats. and NR 51, subch. IX, Wis. Adm. Code

Who can apply

Who can apply

Friends groups and nonprofit conservation organizations (NCO)

Eligible friends groups must be 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.


Eligible projects

Grants are awarded to qualified friends groups and NCOs for costs directly incurred by development projects and habitat restoration on state property.

Projects not eligible for friends group grant funding include facilities for outdoor but not nature-based activities such as sports fields, tennis courts and swimming pools. Grant funds may not be spent on administrative overhead or production of educational materials such as brochures, videos, etc.


Program purpose

Friends Grants are intended to enhance nature-based outdoor recreation - activities where the primary focus is the appreciation or enjoyment of nature - on state-owned land. These funds are designated for habitat restoration and recreational support facilities include parking areas, shelter buildings and trails.


Program priorities

In accordance with state statute, priority shall be given to projects submitted by friends groups over NCOs. Additionally, priority will be given to projects that do any of the following:

  • leverage Stewardship grant against other funding in addition to the 50 percent sponsor match;
  • expand recreation opportunities;
  • address visitor/public health, environmental, safety or security problems;
  • expand or improve environmental education and interpretation programs and outdoor skills development; or
  • restore habitat in a manner consistent with approved management plans.

Grants awarded

A total of $250,000 are available for friends groups. Grants are awarded for up to 50 percent of project costs. For more information about sponsor match, see application materials for friends groups.

How to apply

How to apply

See Grants to friends groups


Application deadlines

Friends group grant applications are due November 15 each year.

Last revised: Wednesday October 07 2015