Wisconsin is at a turning point. The extensive farmland that established our character as the dairy state is rapidly disappearing to development in many parts of the state. The forested lands that built our paper and recreation industries are being sold as small, private lots. These changes
are essentially irreversible, and are accelerating.However, they are not inevitable results of economic growth and population increases. On the
contrary, it is the way we choose to use our lands that leads to these losses. We can markedly improve our economic growth, public services, and quality of life by using our lands more wisely and by helping the agricultural industry increase farm profitability. It is easier to protect farmland when the farm operations on the land are profitable.
Surveys of Wisconsin citizens show that high percentages of citizens favor protection of farm and forestlands and preservation of the rural character of their towns and counties. We are in danger of missing an important opportunity to shape the future of Wisconsin. Working lands remain central to the economic growth of the state, to our quality of life, and to the
environment. However, we have allowed our policy tools to become outdated and underpowered. In the 1970s, Wisconsin was a national leader in farmland preservation when it enacted the Farmland Preservation Program. Since then, Wisconsin has changed markedly. Our working
lands toolkit has not. As a result, landowners, local governments, and state policy makers are not able to take the actions necessary to capitalize on the opportunities offered by working lands and to avert the threats to working lands.