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Greenbelt Alliance

Big Win for Open Space: Priority Conservation Areas

2015 was a big year for open space protection in the Bay Area. The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) voted to expand the region’s Priority Conservation Area (PCA) Program significantly. Priority Conservation Areas are exactly what they sound like: natural areas, recreation lands, farms, ranches, and urban open spaces that should be protected from development. Local governments nominate open spaces as PCAs, and ABAG vets and approve the nominations. Now that the PCA Program has been expanded, there are 165 PCAs across the Bay Area, covering over 2 million acres.

Our Impact

Greenbelt Alliance led the effort to expand the Priority Conservation Area Program. We helped ABAG improve the design of the program to advance the Bay Area’s conservation priorities. We also provided advice and technical guidance to many local governments that shaped their PCA nominations. And most significantly, we pushed hard to increase funding for the PCAs.

Through our website, Bay Area residents sent over 1,600 letters to local leaders, urging them to increase funding for PCAs in the One Bay Area Grant (OBAG) Program. After Greenbelt Alliance’s advocacy, $16.4 million was designated for PCAs. These funds will be critical in leveraging other state, federal, and private dollars to permanently protect the PCAs from development.


  • 68 new PCAs created—more than 400,000 acres
  • $16.4 million toward the PCA grant program
  • 1,600 letters to regional leaders in support of the PCA program
How Priority Conservation Areas Affect the Bay Area

The new Priority Conservation Areas cover more than 400,000 acres—an area more than 13 times the size of San Francisco! Expanding the PCA Program will safeguard even more of the Bay Area’s critical open spaces that provide clean air and water, locally produced food, wildlife habitats, carbon sequestration, outdoor recreation, and urban green spaces. The expansion includes designating more land and allocating more funding to preserve that land. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission increased funding for the PCA Grant Program by over 60 percent to $16.4 million, which can benefit PCAs throughout the entire Bay Area.

What’s Next

The next step is to ensure the $16.4 million is spent wisely. Past funding for PCAs went to local projects, such as the preservation of:

  • Breuner Marsh in Richmond.
  • The Loma Mar area of San Mateo County, including a redwood forest.
  • The Suscol Creek Headwaters Preserve in Napa County.

Greenbelt Alliance will continue our leadership role on future funding, land-use, and policy decisions that will affect the PCAs.

Read more stories like this in our 2015 Annual Report.

Download Annual Report

Photo: Marc Crumpler ©

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