Brooklyn Law Review


Rural land has an important role to play in environmental protection. This Article examines how the federal government works to further the goals of land conservation in rural areas—ranging from farmland to forests and wetlands; from working landscapes to national parks; and from private to public landownership. We note three approaches. The federal government mandates conservation through laws like the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act. The federal government incentivizes conservation through Farm Bill programs and tax incentives. Finally, the federal government facilitates conservation through noncoercive funding, review, and technical assistance programs under the Farm Bill, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This examination of federal land conservation programs gives insight into the different tools and strategies available to protect rural lands and examines the potential benefits of a stronger federal role. The greatest obstacle to successful environmental protection in rural areas is a lack of active environmental management and the conversion of land to other uses, chiefly residential and energy development. Current land conservation programs do not appear to be addressing these issues directly, and action on some level is necessary to achieve more optimal environmental outcomes in the rural countryside.