Contra Costa County hills

What Is a Greenbelt Anyway?

Those of us who live in the Bay Area are lucky to have access to a 3.6 million-acre greenbelt that provides us with fresh food, clean air, and great places to hike. Greenbelt Alliance works to protect these lands from unsustainable sprawl development. But exactly what is a greenbelt?

“Greenbelt” describes undeveloped, wild, or agricultural land that surrounds urban areas. By preserving greenbelts, we can prevent inefficient urban sprawl from paving over valuable natural and agricultural lands. Greenbelts encompass many different types and scales of landscapes such as wildlife corridors, streams, wetlands, and recreational parks. Here are some Bay Area greenbelts that you might be familiar with:

  • Coyote Valley: 7,400 acres of farmland and recreational space between Morgan Hill and San Jose
  • Las Trampas: 5,342 acres of wilderness and trails in the East Bay, well-known for its springtime wildflowers
  • Lands End: A small, coastal National Recreation Area at the northwestern corner of San Francisco offering cypress groves and ocean views


Greenbelts Give Back

Greenbelts are more than just a boundary between rural and urban areas. Preservation of agricultural land means residents have access to fresh, locally-grown food. Open spaces provide habitats for wildlife and ideal places for hiking and other recreational activities. Greenbelts are also economically valuable. They provide ecosystem services like water treatment, air quality management, and flood control free of charge. In a report published in 2014, the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority estimated that the value of ecosystem services provided by the county’s natural landscapes ranges from $1.6 to $3.9 billion annually.


What Greenbelt Alliance Is Doing

Greenbelt Alliance is always at work protecting valuable farm and ranch land and the natural landscapes that make this region a great place to live. We advocate for land conservation policies both locally—like in Sonoma County—and regionally—like with Priority Conservation Areas. We need you to be a champion for the Bay Area’s greenbelts too. See what actions you can take to lend your support to our land conservation efforts.


Get to Know Your Local Greenbelts
  • Explore your local greenbelt with us on an outing! Our outings program offers guided nature hikes, urban tours, and bike rides throughout the Bay Area. Best of all, it’s completely free to register! Check out our outings calendar at
  • Learn more about the Bay Area’s greenbelts and which ones are at risk for development with our Interactive Greenbelt Mapper.
  • You can also check out our signature report, At Risk: The Bay Area Greenbelt, which we update every five years.


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