2023-2025 State Budget Highlights – Natural Resources

WI Green Fire, August 18, 2023

Wisconsin state capitol in winter

by Paul Heinen, WGF Policy Director

Governor Tony Evers signed the 2023-2025 State Budget on Wednesday July 5, 2023.  Below are the highlights from the Governor’s point of view taken from his budget message.  Following these three sections is an “Other’ section with other items that you should know about.  Overall, the DNR budget was increased by 7.6%.  However, staff was reduced by a total of 53 positions.

Water:

  • Provides $7.5 million GPR in fiscal year 2023-24 for contaminated sediment removal from sites in the Great Lakes or its tributaries that are on Wisconsin’s impaired waters list to continue protecting this resource.
  • Provides $4 million GPR for urban nonpoint source (UNPS) cost-sharing and the municipal flood control (MFC) program. The UNPS program offers competitive grants to local governments for the control of pollution from diffuse urban sources that is carried by storm water runoff, and the MFC program provides cost sharing to municipalities for activities such as property acquisition and removal of structures, floodproofing and flood elevation of structures, and flood mapping.
  • Provides $6.5 million GPR for grants to counties for capital projects that implement land and water resource management plans under the Targeted Runoff Management program, which can reimburse costs for agricultural or urban runoff management practices in targeted, critical geographic areas with surface water or groundwater quality concerns. The budget also provides an additional $400,000 SEG in each year for noncapital projects under the Targeted Runoff Management program.
  • Provides $7 million GPR for grants to counties for implementation of land and water resource management plans, including cost-share grants to landowners that install conservation practices on their land, such as erosion prevention strategies, through the Soil and Water Resource Management program.
  • Provides $775,000 in fiscal year 2023-24 and $121,000 in fiscal year 2024-25 to provide additional equipment in the Bureau of Laboratory Services at the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. xlviii
  • Provides $4 million GPR for the repair, reconstruction, and removal of dams.
  • Provides $250,000 SEG in each year to support the Producer-Led Watershed Protection grant program. Funding from this program enables producers and producer-led groups to implement nonpoint source pollution abatement strategies to improve Wisconsin’s soil and water quality.
  • Provides $1.8 million SEG in each year on a one-time basis to continue the commercial nitrogen optimization pilot program (NOPP) and cover crop insurance program. These programs were created by 2021 Wisconsin Act 223, which I signed into law in April 2022. NOPP grants aim to refine and enhance the understanding of new methods that optimize commercial nitrogen applied to agricultural fields, helping to protect soil and water resources, while the cover crop insurance program assists farmers with rebates of $5 per acre of a cover crop planted for crop insurance premiums paid on those acres.
  • Provides $1 million GPR in fiscal year 2023-24 for financial assistance under the state well compensation program. The well compensation program provides financial support to private well owners to support the replacement, reconstruction, treatment, or abandonment of contaminated private wells. In addition to this investment, in August 2022, my administration created a new well compensation grant program with $10 million of the state’s allocation of federal relief funds. This new program included expanded eligibility criteria to further the reach of the program and better meet the needs of Wisconsin’s well owners. Unfortunately, the Legislature rejected these same eligibility changes to the state-funded well compensation program included in my 2023-25 biennial budget proposal.
  • Electrify campsites at state parks and eliminates the 35 percent cap on the number of campsites that can electrified in the state park system. This will allow the Department of Natural Resources to better respond to campsite demand from visitors.

Forestry:

  • This budget increases funding for the Urban Forestry Grant program by $175,000 SEG annually to combat emerging threats in urban forestry. Urban Forestry Grants can take the form of: o Regular grants to support new, innovative projects that will develop sustainable urban and community forestry programs; o Startup grants for communities that want to start or restart an urban forestry program; and o Catastrophic Storm grants that fund tree repair, removal, or replacement within urban areas following a catastrophic storm event for which the Governor has declared a state of emergency.
  • Increases funding for the County Forest Administration Grant program by $200,000 SEG in each year to support salaries for county forest administrators. Up to 50 percent of the annual salary and fringe benefits for county forest administrators and assistant county forest administrators may be covered by the grant program, supporting Wisconsin counties in their forestry activities and planning.
  • Increases funding for the Sustainable Forestry Grant program by $50,000 SEG in each year to support sustainable forest management projects on county forest land, such as storm-related projects or hiring temporary staff to address short-term workload projects.
  • Provides $807,600 SEG in fiscal year 2023-24 and $150,000 SEG in fiscal year 2024-25 as one-time funding to acquire and upgrade fire suppression equipment at the Department of Natural Resources to more effectively combat wildfires

Parks:

  • Provides $29.0 million SEG in one-time funding for capital development projects in state parks and forests. This includes:  Nearly $13.4 million SEG in fiscal year 2023-24 for state parks and forests maintenance and development projects, including $4 million SEG to improve accessibility for visitors with special needs
  • Provides $5.6 million SEG in fiscal year 2023-24 for state forest, parks, and riverway roads maintenance and development projects; and $10 million SEG in fiscal year 2023-24 for facilities repair and renovation projects at state parks, trails, and recreation areas.
  • Provides $1.5 million SEG in fiscal year 2024-25 as one-time funding to electrify campsites at state parks and eliminates the 35 percent cap on the number of campsites that can electrified in the state park system. This will allow the Department of Natural Resources to better respond to campsite demand from visitors.

Other:

1. The Joint Finance Committee removed the Inland Trout Stamp increase requested by the state’s trout fishers.

2. The Committee also deleted the Deer Carcass Disposal Grant funding.

3. There is an out-of-state deer license increase of $40 raising that license from $160 to $200 per year.  This increase raises $32 million per year for wildlife management.

4.  There is $125 million placed into a PFAS Cleanup Trust fund in the Joint Finance Committee 2023-2025 appropriation. The Legislature will need to pass authorizing legislation for the DNR to access that funding for PFAS cleanups.

5. Overall there was a reduction of $600,000 to the Forestry Budget of the Joint Finance Committee, breaking their promise from last budget to fully fund Forestry with GPR after they deleted the forestry mill tax.

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