California is the most ecologically diverse state in the nation, and the State Park System (SPS) protects the most ecologically diverse system of lands in the State. The department fills an important role by preserving representative examples of natural resources that exist within the state's ten biological regions and is well suited to managing these areas.

With diverse bioregions that stretch over 750 miles across the latitudes, more than 30% of California’s plant species are endemic. Due to the complexity of its relief, geology, climate, and soils, California enjoys a unique and complex biota. As California's population is expected to grow by nearly 30% in the next quarter century, the demand for resources and living space to support this population will result in ever increasing pressure on the state's remaining wild lands. In fact, the California Floristic Province is one of the world’s 25 hot spots where biological diversity is seriously at risk. State Parks will, in part, focus its efforts on the preservation of under-protected, under-represented, and rarely found resources in California.

Note:  these guidelines are current as of fiscal year 2024-25;  updates will be posted here when available.


In seeking potential project lands to be nominated for acquisition, we recommend the following type of projects:

1. Landscape/Habitat Linkages and Climate Change: State Parks is seeking properties that link, or contribute to linking, existing units of the SPS to other large blocks of protected habitat. Priority is given to necessary linkages associated with the representatives parks identified by CSP or identified by the California Essential Habitat Connectivity Project, or regional habitat linkages initiatives such as the South Coast Missing Links project. Linkages must serve to connect existing protected areas, facilitate wildlife movement/botanical transfer, and result in sustainable combined acreage. To offset potential impact from climate change, priority linkages include those that are associated with larger reserves, provide latitudinal or elevational linkages, or are located at the northern extent of the range of keystone or focal species. Projects should also consider future damage to the Park System due to climate change through rising sea levels that claim shorelines or Delta lands, and altered hydrology that will damage existing habitat and water supply for consumption and recreation in riparian and lacustrine areas.

2. Watershed Protection: Projects that serve to protect CSP identified Keystone Watersheds from land conversion; conservation easements may be a preferred tool under appropriate conditions.

3. Under-Protected Habitat Types in California: State Parks is seeking properties that support relatively large areas of under-protected major habitat types in California (not just the SPS). Focus should be on the habitat types below, which are less than 20% protected on publicly owned lands.

Diablan Sage Scrub Blue Oak Woodland
Valley Sink Scrub Valley Oak Woodland
Coastal Prairie California Walnut Woodland
Great Valley Cottonwood Riparian Forest Juniper-Oak Cismontane Woodland
Great Valley Oak Riparian Forest Northern Interior Cypress Forest
Great Valley Mesquite Scrub

4. Central Valley: State Parks is seeking properties in two notably under-protected ecological regions of California and where SPS lands are relatively scarce. These regions are (1) Sacramento Valley and (2) San Joaquin Valley. Many specific projects are identified in the Central Valley Vision Implementation Plan. It is preferable that properties support under-protected major habitat types (see 3, above) or under-represented resource areas.

5. Evolutionary Hotspots: State Parks is seeking areas where a comparatively high rate of speciation is occurring. Areas should be large enough to protect processes suspected to contribute to speciation. Projects that incorporate climate change protections will receive priority. Proposals should be supported by quality scientific investigation.

6. Buffers to Existing SPS Wildlands: State Parks is seeking meaningful buffer properties whose primary purpose is to reduce present/future impacts to existing high value SPS natural resource lands from urbanization, especially residential or other deleterious land uses.

7. Selected Wetland and Riparian Areas: State Parks is seeking wetland and riparian areas, especially those along the California coast, in the Central Valley or in the jurisdiction of state conservancies.

8. Unique Biological Values: State Parks is seeking properties adjacent to or at least within close proximity of existing park units or existing protected properties which exhibit a concentration of rare or unique habitat types and concentrations of species of concern.

9. Under-Represented Resource Types: Properties adjacent to or near existing park units or existing protected properties which exhibit physical features not well represented/preserved within or without the State Park System. Physical features for focus for addition to the SPS include:

• Representative examples of natural landscapes and the identifying [or key or signature] geologic features for under-represented portions of the Modoc, Klamath, and eastern portion of the Sierra bioregions that are not protected by other land managing agencies.

• Significant fossil resources, such as concentrations of significant vertebrate fossils, multiple species assemblages representing ancient environments, and trace fossils (e.g. footprints) of ephemeral conditions.

• Type localities of geologic formations found only in California and lacking existing significant protection by other land management agencies.

• Special geologic features not well represented in the SPS include volcanoes and volcanic features (e.g. lava tubes, columnar basalts, and inverted topography), glaciers and glacial features, limestone caves, thermal features, and tombstone rocks.


A. High priority will be given to properties that link, or contribute to linking, representative parks of the SPS with other protected areas or protective easements, especially representative parks. Functionality, total reserve size, significance of overall reserve area and improving resilience to climate change will be assessed. Size and significance should be tied, in part, to identified focal species, whose relative significance will be assessed.

B. High priority will be given to properties that serve to (1) protect significant natural resource values within under-protected ecological regions of California, (2) protect relatively large, sustainable acreage of under-protected major habitat types, and (3) keystone watersheds.

C. High priority will be given to properties that receive priority protection from NCCP, MSHCP, or other regional conservation planning efforts. Property should tie directly to a SPS objective, including one or more of the above characteristics, regional recreation opportunities, or significant cultural resource preservation.

D. High priority will be given to properties with respect to condition of property, especially functioning natural systems, sustainability, and parcel line configuration in relationship to susceptibility to offsite impacts.

E. Additional consideration will be given to any of the above encompassing demonstrated evolutionary hotspots.

F. Medium priority will be given to unique or rare habitat types not protected in the ecological region or rarely found in the State Park System, or in the geographic extremes of its habitat type, or with a concentration of five or more listed species and which is intact to a high degree.

G. Medium priority will be given to environmentally sensitive habitat types such as wetland and/or riparian areas linked or capable of being linked with other protected wetland/riparian areas which possess unique habitats, rare plant communities and habitat supporting listed animal species. Properties in watersheds with undisturbed natural processes will be given precedence.

H. Medium priority will be given to properties which include representative samples of geologic formations or geomorphic features, which are not well protected within or without the State Park System.

I. Medium priority will be given to properties possessing paleontological resources of significance that are not represented within the State Park System or other protected lands

J. Additional consideration will be given to areas possessing the potential for more formal outdoor interpretation of a natural resource message unique to the region.