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Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program GrantsUrban Green Space 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

Urban Green Space Program

See s. 23.09(19), Wis. Stats. [exit DNR]; ch. NR 51, subchap XIII, 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 regional community services specialists (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 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.

Lake sanitary districts and public inland lake protection and rehabilitation districts

Lake sanitary districts and public inland lake protection and rehabilitation districts are eligible applicants for the Stewardship Urban Greenspace Program.


Eligible projects

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


Program purpose

The intent of the Urban Green Space Program (UGS) is to provide open natural space within or in proximity to urban areas; to protect from urban development areas within or in proximity to urban areas that have scenic, ecological or other natural value; and to provide land for noncommercial gardening for the residents of an urbanized area.


Program Priorities

Priority is given to projects that have one or more of the following characteristics:

  1. Planning Considerations, including:
    • Specifically implementing a priority of the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan.
    • Implementing the approved master plans of 2 or more units of government or regional planning agencies.
    • Preserving land that is listed on the Natural Heritage Inventory database.
    • Implementing elements of water quality plans or initiatives.
  2. Project Considerations, including:
    • Serving the greatest population centers.
    • Serving areas of rapidly increasing populations.
    • Providing accessibility.
    • Having unique natural features, threatened or endangered species, or significant ecological value.
    • Providing open natural linear corridors connecting open natural areas.
    • Having water frontage.
    • Containing or restoring wetlands.
    • Protecting sensitive wildlife habitat.
    • Protecting an area threatened by development.
    • Preserving a natural community or one that could be restored.
    • Having regional or statewide significance.
    • Relating to brownfield redevelopment.
  3. Administrative considerations, including:
    • Projects that are ready to be implemented and/or continue previously started projects.
    • Projects that implement priorities contained in local master plans.
    • Projects that acquire land for open natural space within or in proximity to urban development.
    • Projects that protect areas or naturally formed features that have scenic, ecological, or other natural values.
    • Project that provide land for noncommercial gardening for inhabitants of urbanized areas.
    • Acquiring land to be used for non nature-based outdoor recreation purposes.

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. Per ch. NR 51, Wis. Adm. Code, 10% of the annual Urban Green Space budget is reserved for community gardening projects.


Application Deadlines

Application deadline is May 1.

Last revised: Tuesday March 21 2017