During the 1970s and '80s, various environmental agencies and organizations worked to protect the Pine Barrens. It was understood that establishing a "greenbelt" was crucial for the preservation of this vital resource. In 1971, 2,300 acres that had been part of Brookhaven National Laboratory was ceded by the federal government to New York State creating Brookhaven State Park. Also, in 1978, the RCA property (Rocky Point and Riverhead) totaling more than 7,200 acres was transferred to the state for $1.

Although a greenbelt was being established, threats to the region persisted. In 1977 and 1978, new threats emerged. A major portion of the Dwarf Pine Plains was threatened by a Free Trade Zone proposal, while along the Peconic River several dozen acres of cranberry bogs were threatened to be filled for a golf course.

Many positive actions occurred through 1987. In 1984, the Pine Barrens Review Commission was established. This commission's major function was to review development proposals in an effort to protect the ecosystem and underlying water supply. In 1986, the Suffolk County Open Space Program was enacted. This initiative resulted in the purchase of 28 new park sites encompassing about 4,600 acres of land. In 1987 and 1988, Suffolk County voters overwhelmingly approved (83-17%) the extension of the 0.25% sales tax to purchase critical watershed areas.

However, as voters were approving the use of sales tax revenues to protect the Pine Barrens, several hundred development projects were being proposed in the Central Pine Barrens. If these projects were successfully culminated, the ecological integrity of the Long Island Pine Barrens would have been severely compromised.