LRP - Licenses

LRP - Regulations

LRP - Permits

Recreation - Statewide

Recreation - Trapping

Recreation - Fishing

Recreation - Hunting

Env. Protection - Management

Env. Protection - Emergency

Env. Protection - Resources

To sign up for updates or to access your subscriber preferences, please enter your contact information below.

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 grantsNatural Areas 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

Natural Areas Program

See section 23.27, Wis. Stats. and ch. NR 51, subch. III, Wis. Adm. Code

Who can apply

Who can apply

Eligible nonprofit conservation organizations (NCO) can apply for Natural Area funding. Nonprofit conservation organizations 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

Acquisition of land or conservation easements for inclusion in the State Natural Area Program.


Program purpose

Stewardship Natural Area grants compliment the State Natural Areas (SNA) Program, dedicated to preservation of Wisconsin's native landscapes. Lands purchased with Natural Area funds must be within an existing SNA boundary or meet the criteria for inclusion in the SNA program. Natural areas host, or provide critical buffer to, high-quality examples of natural communities or habitat for rare plant and animal species. Land that has been farmed, logged or otherwise been degraded to a point that it no longer supports viable ecological communities will not generally be approved for Natural Area funding.

State Natural Areas are open to the public for low-impact nature-based recreation and scientific study. Natural Areas are not intended for intensive recreational use such as mountain biking, motorized vehicle use, horseback riding or camping.

Land protected with Natural Areas grant funds must be offered to the DNR for legal dedication as a State Natural Area. Legally dedicated sites may not be taken for other uses without a finding of urgent and greater public need by the DNR and subsequent approval by the Governor and the Legislature.


Program priorities

Analysis of a site for inclusion in the State Natural Areas Program begins with the information about the species and natural communities present on the site as documented in Wisconsin's Natural Heritage Inventory and other sources.

Applications for Natural Area grants are evaluated based on criteria including:

  • the quality, condition, number, rarity and long-term viability of the natural values to be protected;
  • the degree to which the natural values and the project are threatened and the degree to which they are already protected in the region or in the state; and
  • the value of the site for research and education.

More detailed information, including the ranking criteria used to select Natural Area projects for funding and application information is found in the Natural Areas grant application materials.

Grants awarded

Each fiscal year, $4.8 million are available for Natural Area grants. Grants are awarded for up to 50 percent 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 the NCO application process.


Application deadlines

Application deadlines vary each year. Please see the NCO application process page for this year's deadline.
Last revised: Monday January 14 2013