Český kras Protected Landscape Area (PLA) was declared by the Czech Ministry of Culture on 12th April, 1972. The total area of the PLA is 13 200 ha and lies on the territory of 2 counties – Beroun and Praha–západ with a part lying on the territory of Prague’s fifth district. The lowest elevation in the area is on the Berounka river near Hlásná Třebaň at 199 m above sea level and the highest point is the peak of Bacín to the north-west of the municipality of Vinařice at 499 m. Twelve municipalities lie completely within the PLA and parts of another 29 municipalities lie within the PLA territory. These areas are administered by 37 municipalities and 2 town districts.
The mission of a Protected Landscape Area is to protect all values of its landscape, its appearance and typical characteristics and natural resources and the formation of a balanced environment. Český kras is an exceptional territory for its geology and stratigraphy of Silurian and Devonian periods and research on the evolution of life on Earth in these periods. It is also the largest limestone region in Bohemia with preserved extensive areas of rocky steppe, forest steppe and deciduous forest communities with a very rich natural flora and fauna. The variety of nature in the area is strongly influenced by the river and karst phenomena. Many plant and invertebrate species which inhabit Český kras are found nowhere else in Bohemia.
To protect the exceptional natural values found here 19 small–scale specially protected areas have also been established: 2 National Nature Reserves (NNR) (Karlštejn and Koda), 4 National Nature Monuments (NNM) (Černá rokle, Klonk, Kotýz and Zlatý kůň), 8 Nature Reserves (NR) (Karlické údolí, Klapice, Kobyla, Kulivá hora, Radotínské údolí, Staňkovka, Tetínské skály, Voškov) and 5 Nature Monuments (NM) (Hvížďalka, Krásná stráň, Špičatý vrch-Barrandovy jámy, Lom u Kozolup and Zmrzlík). Within the PLA, 8 Sites of Community Importance have been proposed as part of Natura 2000 network (Karlické údolí, Karlštejn, Koda, Kotýz, Kulivá hora, Radotínské údolí, Suchomasty-zámeček, Štoly Velké Ameriky and Zlatý kůň). Since the year 2000 Karlštejn NNR has been a holder of the European Diploma for Protected Areas.
The territory of the PLA is divided into 4 zones of nature protection. In the first, the most valuable zone of 2809 ha of forests and 226 ha of agricultural lands are included. The proportion of forested areas in the other zones is much lower. What is notable about the PLA is the relatively small areas of meadows and pasturelands, as forests and fields cover most of the territory. The other missing locality type are areas of surface water, although this is a common characteristic of all central European karst regions.
Forests cover 38 % of the PLA, although only a part of these forests are used commercially. In the commercial forests and special-purpose forests, felling is mostly carried out in a selective manner. Damage to forest stands mostly occurs as a result of repeated periods of drought, and in the case of the spruce monocultures as a result of rot setting in. The area’s forests have never suffered badly from damage due to air pollution. Hunting grounds are recognised and are leased to local groups of the Hunter Union who manage them. From medieval times this region was often visited by Bohemian Kings and nobles who loved to hunt here. A current task for the PLA Administration is to restrict the introduction of non-indigenous game species to the area.
Agricultural lands cover around 50 % of the PLA territory, and of these around 78 % are arable lands. In the interests of nature protection this high proportion of ploughed land should be gradually reduced in the future. The PLA is a region of medium fertility and has predominantly produced potatoes and wheat, but in some areas beet and barley are traditional crops. The climatic and soil conditions in the area allow restricted growing of grape vines.
Agricultural production in the area influences the natural environment in a number of ways, including the soil nutrient cycle, water erosion, the landscape character and the neighbouring specially protected areas. Nitrates from arable farmland make up 60–65 % of the water pollution in Český kras while only 2 % runs off from pastures (for comparison 4–5 % come from forests, other areas 1–2 % and point sources contribute 29–30 %). Some 60 % of the agricultural land in Český kras is classified as extremely vulnerable to water erosion (over 7.5 t.ha-1 year-1 of soil loss).
Emissions produced by industrial plants have a negative effect on the natural environment in Český kras, especially dust emissions and nitrous oxides (NOx). Their concentrations regularly exceed the permitted limits, damage the vegetation and reduce the life expectancy of the forests.
As Český kras is rich in mineral resources, the quarrying industry is concentrated here; nine authorised quarrying localities, covering an area of 752 ha (7 % of the total area) can be found here. The main conflict arises between the high natural value of the karst region and the commercial interests to quarry and process limestone in the area. Recently a number of technological measures have been implemented to reduce the negative effects of limestone extraction on the environment.