Priority Conservation Areas (PCAs)

Priority Conservation Areas (PCAs) are locations designated for the protection of natural habitats and the preservation of open space for future generations. This includes farming, ranching, recreational and resource lands.

Karl Nielsen

Priority Conservation Areas (PCAs) are a modern expression of the Bay Area’s century-long concern for, and protection of, parks and open spaces.

Like Priority Development Areas (PDAs), PCAs are nominated by local jurisdictions and adopted by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). These sites are identified in partnership with property owners, land trusts, open space districts, cities’ and counties’ parks and recreation departments and other local jurisdictions.

Permanently protecting PCAs involves establishing policy protections, purchasing key natural lands or establishing conservation easements with willing property owners.

Learn more about the more than 180 PCAs adopted by ABAG.

PCA Refresh

In November 2021, MTC and ABAG were awarded a grant from the Sustainable Agricultural Lands and Conservation (SALC) Program managed by the California Department of Conservation to support a refresh of the PCA planning framework. This effort kicked off in June 2022. It will identify recommendations to make the region’s conservation planning framework more data-driven and science-based by late 2023, while also incorporating a wider range of policy concerns, such as equity and resilience to climate hazards.

The project objectives include:

  • Evaluating all aspects of the current PCA nomination, evaluation and designation process;
  • Articulating a vision for next-generation PCAs;
  • Establishing clear goals and objectives;
  • Identifying the needs of project applicants; and
  • Developing guidelines and resources, with an emphasis on data and mapping.

In July 2023, an Interim Memo exploring the strengths and weaknesses of the existing PCA framework and outlining draft vision, goals and objectives for the Refresh was released:

The effort will culminate in a final report of major findings, including a recommended suite of options for regional policymakers to consider with respect to planning, policy and funding. The Priority Conservation Area Refresh Final Report is anticipated to be released in winter 2024.


Partnership and collaboration will be a key component of the PCA refresh. Planned activities for partner and stakeholder engagement (including with local jurisdictions) will include workshops, surveys, one-on-one and small group focused discussions, among others.

Staff Contact

Michael Germeraad, Regional Planning Program
Email: mgermeraad@bayareametro.gov

For more information, sign up for the PCA Mailing List at the bottom of this page.

PCA Maps

Visit the Plan Bay Area website to view the Statutorily Required Plan Maps to see all of the approved PCAs in the Bay Area.

Go to planbayarea.org.

Priority Conservation Area Grants

MTC and ABAG, working with the State Coastal Conservancy, have a PCA grants program. Learn more about Priority Conservation Area Grants.

Regional Planning

PCAs are a key element of Plan Bay Area, the region’s long-term transportation and land use plan.

Plan Bay Area 2050+

Learn about the updates to the long-range regional plan: Plan Bay Area 2050+.

Plan Bay Area 2050+ logo.

Sign up for the PCA Mailing List

Sign up for the Priority Conservation Areas mailing list to receive updates on PCA grants, application deadlines and more.

Priority Conservation Area