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JFC approves slashing of DNR Stewardship program budget

MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - Democrats and environmentalists were upset, after Republicans on the Legislature’s finance committee slashed the budget for nature and recreational land purchases.

On a 12-4 party line vote Wendesday, the panel reduced the Stewardship program’s bonding authority from $60 million a year to $47.5 million next year, and $54.5 million the year after that. From there, the bonding would be limited to $50 million a year through 2020.

The DNR would have new limits on how much land it could own, and the agency would have to sell thousands of acres to private interests.

Republicans said the program’s debt was spiraling out of control, and committee chairman John Nygren said people wanted the state to get rid of the Stewardship program.

Democrats disagreed. Pleasant Prairie’s Bob Wirch said the bonding reductions would anger outdoor enthusiasts who already have trouble finding places for recreation.

Amber Meyer Smith of Clean Wisconsin said it’s frustrating to see the program “whittled away” – and until now it was, “the heart of bi-partisanship.” The Stewardship program started in 1989.