Five male tule elk with huge antlers standing at the top of a green hill, with a flat green valley below

Top 10 Conservation Focus Areas

As part of the Santa Clara Valley Greenprint analysis, researchers mapped the region’s natural resources such as water, wildlife, farmland, and recreational areas, and identified areas with the greatest concentration of multiple conservation benefits. The Greenprint also considered the urgency of protecting each area, given the risks facing them, and the suitability of each area for preservation – as well as areas that are important to the Valley’s natural or cultural heritage.

These resulting 10 Conservation Focus Areas are where the Authority and its partners have the best opportunities for realizing the vision of a protected and connected landscape:

Looking across marshland covered with green and brown shrubs and patches of water

01 Baylands

The Baylands are along the San Francisco Bay, including tidal marshes that are significantly diminished by landfills, salt ponds or other disturbances. Preserving the Baylands will protect habitats of the California clapper rail, California least tern, salt marsh harvest mouse, and the western snowy plover.

Blue pond in the bottom of rolling golden hills and oak woodlands under blue sky

02 Upper Penitencia Creek / East Foothills

Located near San Jose’s eastern foothills, the East Foothills are characterized by rolling grasslands and oak woodlands with heavily forested canyons. Protecting this region can close gaps in the Bay Area Ridge Trail, protect watersheds and increase recreation for local residents.

Green field with herd of white, black, and brown cows, mountains in the distance

03 Upper Alameda Creek

Upper Alameda Creek is the largest watershed in the South Bay, covering over 700 square miles. It provides nearly one-sixth of the water supply for 2.4 million customers and supports a wide array of plants, animals, and natural communities.  

Green grassy hill with rocks and small oak tree

04 Coyote Ridge

Coyote Ridge provides habitat to more than a dozen rare, threatened, and endangered species, like the Bay checkerspot butterfly which is dependent on its serpentine grasslands. Its protection will close critical gaps between existing parks and protected areas, enhance recreation, and allow wildlife movement between the Diablo Ridge and the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Lush green grassy field looking across Coyote Valley to rolling green hills under overcast sky

05 Coyote Valley

Protection of Coyote Valley is crucial for preserving prime farmland in the region, and maintaining a critical linkage between mountain ranges for wildlife and habitat for endangered species. It is an important recharge area for the groundwater basin upon which the Silicon Valley depends.

Coyote Creek with water rushing over stones and under trees with yellow leaves

06 Upper Coyote Creek

Upper Coyote Creek extends from the valley floor near the communities of Morgan Hill and San Martin and is critical for local agricultural viability, wildlife habitat, local water supplies, and recreation.

Green Santa Cruz Mountains bathed in golden light extended into the distance

07 Southern Santa Cruz Mountains

These mountains support serpentine grassland and chaparral scrub, and provide habitats for many rare, threatened, and endangered species, like the American badger. This region receives the highest amount of rainfall in the County.

Rolling green hills with scattered trees under cloudy sky

08 Sargent Hills

The Sargent Hills are comprised of rolling grasslands and a number of streams, providing important habitats for the endangered California red-legged frog and many other species. This region is located within the critical landscape linkage connecting the Santa Cruz Mountains to the Diablo Range and presents a unique opportunity for land conservation.

Patchwork of agricultural fields with tree-lined river curving through landscape

09 Upper Pajaro River

Upper Pajaro River has outstanding water, wildlife, and agricultural conservation values and provides an opportunity for mountain lions, badgers, and other wide-ranging animals to migrate and disperse. Protecting this region is crucial for resilience to the changing climate.

Dry, gravel creekbed curving through green field with sycamore trees

10 Pacheco Creek

Pacheco Creek is significant for its natural resources and agricultural values, and its rare riparian habitat assists recovery of the California Tiger Salamander. It also supports an important run of steelhead trout and contributes to species’ recovery within the larger Pajaro River watershed.

Our Approach

To protect the 10 Conservation Areas identified in the Greenprint, the Authority has outlined specific conservation strategies that will be updated as information or conditions change.

Learn more about the 10 Priority Conservation Areas in the Santa Clara Valley Greenprint.

Top ten priority conservation areas

See Map

Strategies include:

  1. Protecting the natural capital and ecosystem services of Authority lands.
  2. Reducing climate change risks and supporting healthy communities.
  3. Educating and empowering the community to protect open spaces and trails.
  4. Protecting agricultural lands and identifying new sources of funding to support Authority efforts.