New Report Urges Use of Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) for Conservation

San Antonio, Texas, A unique partnership of cattlemen, conservationists, and Western governors today released a report urging the creation and use of publicly funded Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) to protect rapidly disappearing farm and ranch land and to conserve agricultural lands and wildlife habitat in the West.

“Purchase of Development Rights: Conserving Lands, Preserving Western Livelihoods” is authored jointly by the Western Governors’ Association, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, and the Trust for Public Land. The report was released today at the Cattle Industry Annual Convention and Trade Show being held in San Antonio.

Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, WGA Chairman, said: “The Western Governors’ Association has long supported voluntary, market-based approaches to natural resource and environmental protection. Landowners across the West are using Purchase of Development Rights as one tool to continue to work the land, remain productive and, at the same time, conserve some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country that we all value as citizens.”

The report details the ways that PDR both helps Western landowners achieve personal and financial goals and helps the public realize goals of land protection. The report describes existing state and local PDR programs in the West, and clearly and concisely explains how landowner-initiated PDR transactions operate and how other states and communities can start PDR programs. Many public and nonprofit sources of information about PDR programs are referenced in the publication.

Lynn Cornwell, a cattle producer from Glasgow, Mont. and president-elect of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said: “These programs offer cattle producers a valuable option to help protect their private ranchlands as wide open spaces and pass the land and ranching heritage on to future generations. Importantly, this option retains private ownership and management.”

Through PDR programs, the public provides cash payment to a landowner for the value of the development rights associated with a land parcel. The owner still owns the land, but is compensated for relinquishing the right to develop it as real estate, permitting farming and other traditional uses of the land to continue.

For landowners, PDR allows farming and ranching communities to protect their agricultural heritage and livelihood in the face of growing development pressures and financial challenges. For the public, PDR programs enable land conservation at much-reduced expense, as the cost of PDR is less than outright purchase of land, and costs associated with subsequent management of the land remain the responsibility of the landowner

Will Rogers, president of the California-based Trust for Public Land, said: “The Trust for Public Land is committed to working with ranchers and farmers, local elected officials, and community leaders across the West to find appropriate ways to conserve working landscapes. PDR transactions are a very effective way to help ranchers remain competitive and to save valuable agricultural land forever. TPL is extremely pleased to work with the Cattlemen and with the Western Governors to forge innovative solutions to our common challenges.”

The Western Governors’ Association is an independent, nonprofit organization representing the governors of 18 states, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. Through their Association, the Western governors identify and address key policy and governance issues in natural resources, the environment, human services, economic development, international relations and public management. Information on the association is available on the Web at

Producer-directed and consumer-focused, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is the trade association of America’s cattle farmers and ranchers, and the marketing organization for the largest segment of the nation’s food and fiber industry.

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. Across the nation, TPL has helped protect more than one million acres, valued at $2 billion. The Wall Street Journal’s Smart Money magazine recently named TPL the nation’s most efficient large conservation charity, based on the percentage of funds dedicated to programs. For more information go to

Full report.

Report also available upon request or electronically at:

Production of “Purchase of Development Rights: Conserving Lands, Preserving Western Livelihoods” is made possible by a grant from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.