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 sprawl development 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
As the Bay Area region grows, 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. But to grow in a sustainable way, we can’t just say “no” to sprawl in our greenbelt. We must also say “yes” to smart growth inside of our cities and towns. That’s why Greenbelt Alliance became the first Bay Area environmental group to shift the focus to not just preventing bad development, but also encouraging the right development in the right places. We support development that works together with conservation efforts to curb sprawl and promote a more climate-friendly, affordable, and inclusive Bay Area for future generations.
“The San Francisco Bay Area’s natural lands provide fresh water, wildlife habitat, and protection against the effects of climate change. Greenbelt Alliance’s work on forward-thinking and creative policies to save these places is critical to the future of the Bay Area.”
Terry Tamminen, CEO — Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation
Get to Know Your Local Greenbelt
- 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—RSVP for free! Check out our outings calendar.
- Learn more about the Bay Area’s greenbelt in At Risk: The Bay Area Greenbelt, which is the definitive research on the farms, ranches, and natural areas at risk of being lost forever to sprawl development.
- We need you to be a champion for the Bay Area’s greenbelts too. You can take action now to lend your support to our land conservation and smart growth work.
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Photo: Patrick Smith via Flickr