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Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program grantsAcquisition And Development Of Local Parks 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

Acquisition And Development Of Local Parks (ADLP)

See s. 23.09(20), Wis. Stats. [exit DNR]; ch. NR 51, subchap XII, Wis. Adm. Code, [exit DNR]

Who can apply

Who can apply

Local governments and tribal governments

Eligible local governments are only those towns, villages, cities, counties and tribal governments that have a DNR accepted comprehensive outdoor recreation plan or master plan which has been approved by resolution by the local governing unit. A county outdoor recreation plan that has been adopted by the town, village or city and that contains sufficient detail related to the grant project may also satisfy the plan requirement. Local governments with qualifying plans receive eligibility to apply for grants for up to five years. If you have not submitted a plan, contact your DNR region CSS for information about how to satisfy this requirement.

Nonprofit conservation organizations

Nonprofit conservation organizations (NCO) are eligible to apply to the Stewardship programs for land acquisition. An eligible NCO must be a nonprofit corporation, charitable trust or other nonprofit association as described in Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. It must also have as part of its mission "the acquisition of property for conservation purposes." This mission should be reflected in the bylaws, charter or incorporation papers of the organization. To learn if your organization is eligible, simply supply the region CSS listed under "DNR Contacts" with a copy of your IRS 501(c)(3) determination letter, as well as copies of your Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws. In addition to these basic eligibility requirements, an NCO must also be able to demonstrate that it has the financial capacity to carry out a project, as well as the ability to maintain and manage property over time. This determination is made when a NCO applies for a grant for a specific project.


Eligible projects

  • Land acquisition projects that will provide opportunities for nature based outdoor recreation.
  • Property with frontage on rivers, streams, lakes, estuaries and reservoirs that will provide water based outdoor recreation.
  • Property that provides special recreation opportunities, such as floodplains, wetlands and areas adjacent to scenic highways.
  • Natural areas and outstanding scenic areas where the objective is to preserve the scenic or natural values, including areas of physical or biological importance and wildlife areas. These areas shall be open to the general public for outdoor recreation use to the extent that the natural attributes of the areas will not be seriously impaired or lost.
  • Land within urban areas for day use picnic areas.
  • Land for nature-based outdoor recreation trails.

Ineligible project examples

  • A project that is not supported by a local comprehensive outdoor recreational plan.
  • Acquisition and development of golf courses.
  • A project where storm water management is the primary purpose.
  • Motorized recreation trails.
  • Lands that include cell towers.
  • In general, land to be used for non nature-based outdoor recreation.

See ch. NR 51, subchap XII, Wis. Adm. Code, [exit DNR], for information about eligible projects and program priorities.


Program purpose

Stewardship sets aside 50 percent of the funds in the Local Assistance Program for projects that improve community recreation areas and acquire land for public outdoor recreation. Funds are allocated on a regional basis with 70 percent distributed on the basis of each county's proportionate share of the state population and 30 percent distributed equally to each county. Applicants compete against other applicants from their region.

Funds may be used for both land acquisition projects and development projects for nature-based outdoor recreation. Nonprofit conservation organizations may only apply for funds for land acquisition. They are not eligible for funds for development projects.


Program priorities

  • Implements priorities contained in state and local comprehensive outdoor recreation plans.
  • Meets needs and deficiencies identified in the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, the approved local comprehensive outdoor recreation plan or the approved comprehensive outdoor recreation plans of other units of government including regional or integrated management plans.
  • Acquires land where a need for additional land acquisition is supported by an approved comprehensive outdoor recreation plan.
  • Is regional or statewide in nature and can be documented as such.
  • Documentation shows benefits to tourism.
  • Results in a first of a kind facility for the project sponsor or service area.
  • Provides or supports a water-based activity.
  • Serves the greatest population.
  • Involves volunteers, local donations or cooperation by two or more service clubs.
  • Applicants that have never received an outdoor recreation program grant.
  • Provides for completion of a project already started where the sponsor has shown the ability to provide quality outdoor recreation facilities for its citizens without grant assistance.
  • Sponsor has completed prior LWCF, ADLP, UGS, URGP or ADR projects successfully.
  • Involves two or more governmental agencies.
  • Acquires land where a need for additional land acquisition is supported by an approved comprehensive outdoor recreation plan.
  • Serves as a demonstration project for other project sponsors.
  • Corrects a documented health or safety problem.
  • Renovates existing facilities which are in danger of being lost for public use.
  • Sponsor is able to adequately maintain and operate the area or facility.
  • Provides multiple-seasons, multiple-activity use.
  • Serves the recreation needs of elderly persons, minorities and disabled persons. Facilities provided must exceed those required by state or federal regulations.

Grants awarded

Grants are awarded for up to 50% of eligible project costs. The sponsor's share of project costs must come from non-state sources.

How to apply

How to apply

For information on how to apply, see local units of government application process.


Application deadlines

Application deadline is May 1.

Last revised: Tuesday March 21 2017