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Arboretum Spotlight: DNR Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program

Written by Aaron Zeleske
    Wednesday, 29 May 2013
Arboretum Spotlight: DNR Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program

In May 2012, the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum project applied for a grant of $1.2 million from the Wisconsin Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.  Administered by the Department of Natural Resources, the Knowles-Nelson program makes funding available for conservation of wildlife habitat and access to outdoor recreation opportunities.


The Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum will open on September 28th, 2013. Each month, Aaron Zeleske, Arboretum Project Coordinator, provides an update to tell a piece of the Arboretum story.  These updates can also be found on the Rotary Club of Milwaukee website.


The Stewardship Fund was named for Warren Knowles and Gaylord Nelson, two of the state’s most revered conservation leaders and former governors. The goals of conservation and recreation are achieved through acquisition of easements and land, restoration of natural habitat, and development of recreational facilities.

Since its inception in 1989, the program has preserved more than 500,000 acres of Wisconsin land. The preserved areas range in size from a single acre to 100 square miles.

A group representing the project including Mary McCormick, Jill Pelisek, and Dan Davis of Milwaukee Rotary, Kimberly Gleffe of River Revitalization Foundation, and Ken Leinbach of Urban Ecology Center testified before the Natural Resources Board in February. After review by Department of Natural Resources staff, the Natural Resources Board, and the Joint Finance Committee, our grant was approved in March 2013. The funds will be paid to the project after earthwork construction and remediation of environmental contamination are complete, in the next several months.

The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program requires a 50% match from the grant recipient. In our case, we leveraged the 4.5 acres of land donated by the late Pieter Godfrey as the match for the purchase of the new properties.

This land purchased with Stewardship funding is comprised of two separate parcels. The first parcel of 1.5 acres is located adjacent to the Godfrey land. This was the site of a building that has already been demolished and is being transformed into Oak Savannah habitat. The second piece of land is located on the west side of the Milwaukee River adjacent to greenspace being developed by the River Revitalization Foundation. This parcel will be retained by the River Revitalization Foundation and a house on the property will be converted into office space for the organization.

To learn more about the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum Project, click here to visit our website, or visit our partners at the Rotary Club of Milwaukee to learn more about this exciting project.  

Aaron Zeleske

Aaron Zeleske

Aaron is the Arboretum Project Coordinator at the Urban Ecology Center where he works to keep all the parts of the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum project moving. His journey to try to understand the world has taken him from Wisconsin to the east coast, the Marshall Islands, Chicago, and back to Wisconsin. Two little known facts about Aaron are that he is both a twin and a potter. He enjoys bicycling, gardening, reading, and cooking delicious meals to share.

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