Jeseníky PLA was declared by the Czechoslovakian Ministry of Culture on 19th June, 1969 covering a territory of 740 km² (737.88 km²). The territory is divided into 4 zones according to the level of nature preservation. The First Zone, with the strictest regulations for nature protection covers 7% of the territory, the Second Zone 23%, the Third Zone 66% and the Fourth Zone which includes settlements and areas with intensive agricultural usage covers 4%.
According to the statute of Jeseníky PLA, its mission is to protect the landscape of the area, its appearance and typical characteristics so that these values form a balanced natural environment. Jeseníky PLA exists to protect the complex of sub-alpine biotopes at the highest elevations of the mountain range as well as the relatively well conserved montane spruce forests and peatbogs. Even though a large proportion of the Jeseníky forests are secondary spruce forests, a notable phenomenon of the mountain range is that 80% of the territory is forested. Near-natural forest growths, with a predominance of beech have only remained in a small number of localities, most of which are especially protected in nature reserves. Another notable subject of protection is the cultural sub-montane landscape, with characteristic settlement forms and patterns.
Within Jeseníky PLA, 28 small-scale Specially Protected Areas have been established. The most significant of these are 4 National Nature Reserves: Praděd (2 031 ha) and Šerák – Keprník (1170 ha), which protect sub-alpine biotopes, climax spruce forests and raised bogs, whereas Rejvíz (329 ha) and Rašeliniště Skřítek (166 ha) comprise mostly peat bogs and peaty forests.
Within the Natura 2000 system, Jeseníky PLA proposed and the Czech government authorised 13 proposed Sites of Community Importance (pSCI) and the Jeseníky Special Protection Area (Bird Area). PSCIs cover an area of 10 059.6 ha (about 1/7 of the PLA territory). The most notable are Praděd pSCI (6 078.8 ha) including Praděd NNR, Rašeliniště Skřítek NNR, Vysoký vodopád NR, Bučina pod Františkovou myslivnou NR and Pod Jelení studánkou NR and Rejvíz pSCI (540.6 ha) including Rejvíz NNR. Other pSCIs of larger surface area are Keprník (2 543 ha), including Šerák – Keprník NNR and Sněžná kotlina NR and Rabštejn (702 ha) with Rabštejn NR. All of these sites were targetted at protecting particular biotopes and Species of Community Interest.
The following sites are aimed exclusively at protecting particular species of which the most valuable are Javorový vrch pSCI and Franz – Franz pSCI, aiming to protect one of the most significant hibernating sites for bats in the Czech Republic. Branná Castle pSCI aims to protect a summer colony of lesser horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus hipposideros). Suchý potok pSCI protects the ground beetle Carabus variolosus, Karlova Studánka pSCI and Heřmanovice pSCI protect the Carpathian newt (Triturus montandoni), Suchá Rudná – Zlatý lom pSCI protects great crested newt (Triturus cristatus). Údolí Malínského potoka pSCI protects the green shield-moss (Buxbaumia viridis) and Šumárník pSCI protects the only locality in the Czech Republic where the liverwort Mannia triandra can be found.
The Jeseníky SPA (Bird Area) covering an area of 52 608 ha was established to protect the corncrake (Crex crex) and the hazel hen (Bonasa bonasia).