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Stewardship fund faces further JFC cuts

RHINELANDER, WI (WXPR) -  The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund, used by the state for conserving tracts of land and water, could see more cuts even though the legislature agreed two years ago to no further cuts for ten years. Governor Scott Walker's new budget maintains the program funding at the agreed-to $60 million level. Sources report the Joint Finance Committee is discussing the programs funding.  One group that sent a letter to legislators supporting current funding is the Nature Conservancy. Their Director of Government Relations, Casey Eggleston, says the program was reauthorized in 2008 at $85 million per year. It was cut to $60 million last budget.  "There was an agreement to reduce that funding to 60 million dollars a year for the remainder of the program out to 2020.  Now there is discussion again that maybe further cuts are necessary (to) the program that was a 30% cut last session." Eggleston says the program is key for hunters, fishers, and those you love the outdoors. He says conservation groups like to see large tracts of intact land to preserve habitat.  "Intact large landscapes are what a lot of species need, and we see less and less of, but for recreation like bear hunting, you need large tracts of land in order to do that activity.  These are the kinds of projects that those need to continue."The budget-writing Joint Finance Committee will be discussing whether to cut the program in the next several days.