Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) Program

The Town of Dunn's PDR program is a voluntary farmland protection method that compensates landowners for inhibiting future development on their land. Through this program, the Town purchased the development rights to its first piece of property in April 1997 and continues to use this tool today in order to fulfill the mission, goals, and strategies of the program:

The Mission of the Rural Preservation Program is to protect and enhance the rural character of the Town of Dunn, preserve a land base to support a robust agricultural economy, and promote ecological resilience to provide a sense of certainty about the future and sustain a high quality of life for all members of the community.

To pursue this mission, the Rural Preservation Program endeavors to:

  • Protect and buffer farmland and viable farm operations from the impacts of development
  • Preserve and buffer significant natural features, scenic vistas, and historic, cultural, and archaeological sites and landscapes from the impacts of development
  • Manage and buffer the encroachment of neighboring cities and villages and development within the Town
  • Create and maintain corridors of protected land
  • Foster a community that is supportive of a local food economy

In an effort to fulfill the mission of the rural preservation program and achieve its goals, the Land Trust Commission and Town staff work to:

  • Partner with organizations for funding to assist in carrying out program goals
  • Create and sustain partnerships with a variety of organizations with shared goals, principally the Natural Heritage Land Trust
  • Purchase the development rights on a voluntary basis from willing owners through the use of conservation easements
  • Purchase lands in fee from willing owners
  • Contribute to the fee acquisition of lands in cases where public or non-profit acquisition furthers the mission of the program
  • Engage in local and regional planning efforts
  • Explore other options and tools for land protection and conservation
  • Provide outreach to interested individuals and groups

Land Trust Commission

The Town's Land Trust Commission oversees the PDR program. Meeting dates and agendas, see a list of commissioners.

General Information

PDR Statistics

Currently the Town holds 38 conservation easements on 37 protected properties, covering 3,763.45 acres and representing about 13.4% of the area of Dunn.

When including the conservation efforts of other organizations, about 24% of the Town's area is currently protected.

Conservation Organization Number of Acres
Town of Dunn 3,863.42
Wisconsin DNR 1650.73
Dane County 846.4
The Nature Conservancy 153.66
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Org. 69.70

Map of Protected Land

(Note: Easements are Private Property - No Public Access is Granted)

Protected Lands Map 2020

See an enlarged map and a legend.

Applying for the PDR Program

The Town of Dunn regularly mails pre-application forms to all eligible residents - those that own 35 acres or more of contiguous land in the Town. When the Town receives an application, staff will score the applicants' property using an objective ranking system (see Land Ranking and Selection Criteria below). The scores determined by the ranking system help the Land Trust Commission determine properties for which to pursue a PDR transaction.

The Town of Dunn purchased its first property for the PDR program on April 22, 1997 from the Sinaiko Family. It was the first Purchase of Development Rights transaction in the state of Wisconsin, as this plaque on the property now explains. The property held a former Native American campsite, and a portion of the property is now a Town Park.


In order to better leverage limited funds, the Town of Dunn seeks grant funding from sources such as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the United States Department of Agriculture, and Dane County Parks. Grants and donations have paid for 51.20% of the cost of purchasing development rights, saving tax payers $4,490,491.

The Town of Dunn also partners with Groundswell Conservancy (previously Natural Heritage Land Trust). With every easement purchase, the Town pays Groundswell Conservancy an endowment fee of roughly $8,000 to assist in enforcing and monitoring conservation easements. Read the Memorandum of Agreement Between the Town of Dunn and Groundswell Conservancy.

Conservation Easements

A conservation easement is the legal contract which the Town uses to acquire development rights.  A unique conservation easement is crafted with each landowner to best protect the significant features of each individual property.

Cost of Community Services Studies

Many studies show that agricultural and open space uses greatly reduce the tax burden on residents as compared to residential uses. The following studies enumerate the relationship between revenues generated by various land uses and compares the tax burden that servicing each use places on the tax payers of a community.

Cost of Community Services Study for Three Dane Towns: Dunn, Perry, and Westport 1999

Tax Information

Listed below is tax information for conservation easements. These materials are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.