Mark R. Rielly


Agricultural land is a vital national resource that is disappearing rapidly. It would be difficult to overstate the adverse impact this trend has on the physical, cultural, and economic landscape of America from the local to the national levels. Recognizing this fact, many states are attempting to protect farmland throughout a mix of conventional and innovative measures. Suffolk County, New York, is typical of many agriculturally productive counties on the fringe of large metropolitan area, which have lost farmland to development at a rapid rate. Supported by a state and local legal framework authorizing the protection of land, Suffolk County's response was to innovate America's first purchase of development rights (PDR) program to protect its dwindling farmland. While Suffolk's PDR program has been successful, success has come at an economic and political price that other counties may be unable or unwilling to pay. An assessment of Suffolk's PDR program in light of these costs and other critical factors suggests that, despite the benefits of the purchase of development rights, PDR programs should be employed merely as one tool within a larger farmland and open space preservation regime.