Future of Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program in doubtSubmitted: 02/21/2019
Dan Hagen
Dan Hagen

Future of Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program in doubt
RHINELANDER, WISCONSIN - Northwoods counties have bought thousands of acres of land through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program. The land has been used for outdoor recreation and environmental protection. Outdoor enthusiasts, forestry officials, and state representatives alike are anxious to see if Governor Evers' upcoming budget proposal will include funding for a stewardship program that's 30 years old.

Al Jozwiak is the vice president of RASTA, A Rhinelander-based silent sports group that maintains trails for skiing, fat biking, and snowshoeing. He helped organize building the Judy Swank Center, a hub for folks exploring the Washburn Lake Trail System. The center is just one example of the state stewardship program's impact.

"It was a matching grant so we had to do some fundraising but it probably would've been out of reach without it," said Jozwiak.

The Knowles-Nelson stewardship program was created to acquire land for expanding nature-based recreational opportunities and protecting environmentally sensitive areas. Knowles-Nelson is leveraged by nonprofits such as RASTA, as well as state and county governments.

Oneida County ranks number 1 of Wisconsin counties for total money spent since the creation of the stewardship program in 1989. The most recent purchase was the Twin Lakes Acquisition in October of 2018. It was estimated to cost a million dollars, but through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship program it only cost the county less than a third, with additional revenue expected from harvesting timber. Oneida County Forest Administrator John Bilogan said only through Knowles-Nelson was this acquisition possible.

"I know for a fact that Oneida County wouldn't have pursued this if it wasn't thirty cents on a dollar basically for us," said Bilogan.

During Governor Walker's administration, funding for the stewardship program was nearly cut in half. It remains to be seen how much funding Governor Evers will include in his budget.

In Iron county, state DNR officials will ask their board on February 27th for permission to spend nearly 5 million dollars to acquire a new property. It would be funded entirely through the stewardship program.

State senator Janet Bewley (D - Mason) represents the county and is on-board for the acquisition.

"I think it's a great idea I'm all for it," said Bewley.

Bewley said that the area is worth preserving partly because of its environmentally-sensitive wetlands. Marshes and swamps contain rich biodiversity and help mitigate flooding after heavy rains. Wetlands also don't have great development potential, so lost revenue to the county and state due to estate taxes is minimal.

"Not to mention the ability of people to access it for recreation and hunting," added Bewley.

Jozwiak said he hopes Evers increases funding for the Knowles-Nelson program. He added that grants like the one for the Judy Swank Center help the local economy, especially for a place like Rhinelander.

"It's a small community and you don't have unlimited funds to do things like and it helps tourism, not only local people but the tourism economy as well."

If Jozwiak and RASTA get more funding from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, they will use it at the Hill Creek Property near Rhinelander. Their plan is to improve outdoor recreation there, most notably, the mountain biking trails. 

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VILLAGE OF ARPIN - A deputy with six years of experience shot and killed a suspect and injured one of his fellow officers in Wood County last week.

Tuesday, the state Department of Justice released information on those who were involved.

The DOJ reports Deputy Nathan Dean shot and killed 32-year-old Logan Johnsrud during a fight June 11.

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LAND O' LAKES - A busy morning for Lois Laux included something she's done hundreds of times, but a gallon of skim milk did more than come in handy for breakfast.  It marked the very first sale at Land O' Lakes' new -- and only--  grocery store.

"Oh, we've needed it for quite a while," Laux said.  "I think it's been at least two years that I've known we were actually going to get it. So, I'm glad it finally made it."

Charlie's Market opened to customers along County Highway B in the heart of town 31 months after the last-remaining grocery store closed.

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RACINE / MILWAUKEE - Two off-duty police officers have been killed in separate incidents in southeastern Wisconsin.

Racine police say Officer John Hetland was fatally shot Monday about 9:40 p.m. when he tried to intervene in an armed robbery at Teezers bar. And Milwaukee police say Officer Kou (koo) Her died early Tuesday when he was struck by a speeding driver who ran a red light at a Milwaukee intersection. Milwaukee Chief Alfonso Morales says Her had just finished his shift in the 4th District. Police have arrested a 34-year-old man who has a history of drunken driving.

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MADISON - A bipartisan proposal designed to make it easier for patients to get needed prescription drugs even when insurance companies force them to try less-expensive alternatives first is headed to Gov. Tony Evers.

The Wisconsin Assembly approved the bill Tuesday on a voice vote. The Senate previously passed the measure.

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MADISON - The Wisconsin State Bar Association along with the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Marquette University law schools are preparing to honor long-time state Supreme Court Justice Shirley Abrahamson.

The bar and the law schools plan to hold a ceremony for Abrahamson in the state Capitol Tuesday evening. Speakers will include Gov. Tony Evers, former Gov. Jim Doyle and federal appellate judge and former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Diane Sykes.

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What We're Working OnSubmitted: 06/18/2019

- Tonight on Newswatch 12:

The Oneida County Sheriff's Office is making it the number one priority to track down and arrest child sex predators. We'll talk to the captain of the sheriff's office about why they are cracking down on such predators and what steps they are planning to take to accomplish their goal.

And after more than two years without a food market in Land O' Lakes, a new store opened up this morning to fill the gap. We'll talk to the property owner, the store manager and the store's very first customer to find out what it means to the community to finally have a food market in town.

We'll bring you this and more tonight on Newswatch 12 - news from where you live.

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EAGLE RIVER - On April 22, sheriff's deputies in Vilas County responded to a rollover crash near St. Germain.

The driver, Karen Ives, was thrown from the car.

So was her six-year-old daughter.

Her two sons were also hurt.

Now, prosecutors say their mother had three times the legal limit of alcohol in her system. The State Crime Lab found her blood-alcohol content was .258.

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