Tools for Landowners - Urban Conservation
Greenspaces Program

(Note: The Greenspaces Program is no longer funded. However, since many projects that were funded by the Greenspaces program are still in existence, the following overview may be of interest.)

History and Overview

In the late 1980's, a group of representatives from Metro*, non-profit organizations, local governments, and citizens formed to collaborate on greenspaces protection in the Portland/Vancouver region. As a result of their efforts, Congress and the President allocated funding in 1991 for a partnership known as the Metropolitan Greenspaces Program (Program) to be administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Metro. The Program focused on environmental education, habitat restoration, public outreach, and regional planning throughout the Portland, Oregon/Vancouver, Washington area. This partnership served as one of only two demonstration programs like it in the nation, involving the USFWS as a partner in local natural resource conservation efforts in urban environments. No longer funded as of 2005, but with fourteen years of history, the Program serves as a model for meaningful conservation strategies in and around urbanizing areas.

Program Accomplishments

Initially, the Program supported natural area inventories and mapping used to develop a strategic conservation plan for the region. In 1995, citizens voted in favor of a $135.6 million bond measure to implement the plan by publicly acquiring an extensive network of trails and greenspaces. Continued funding of $300,000 annually, from 1991 through 2004, supported grants that contributed to over 300 projects and enabled the USFWS to participate in Metro's regional planning to protect greenspaces, water quality, floodplains, and fish and wildlife habitat. For a complete summary of accomplishments, see the Greenspaces Accomplishment Report. View project profiles of specific Greenspaces grants, including photos, advice and helpful hints from the project managers.

Beneficial Partnership

The overlap between the missions of Metro and the USFWS made way for a mutually beneficial partnership. Metro's responsibility for regional land-use planning, including protecting a regional network of parks and natural areas, protecting water quality, maintaining functional floodplains, and conserving fish and wildlife habitat complements the USFWS' mission to conserve, protect, and enhance the nation’s fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats. This partnership allowed for the pooling of resources and expertise to implement a multi-faceted program aimed at conserving sensitive species through environmental education, habitat restoration, stewardship, conservation planning and collaboration with other stakeholders.

The Role of Urban Areas in Natural Resource Conservation

The Portland/Vancouver area supports habitat and migration corridors for a number of at-risk species, including native salmonids, migratory birds, amphibians, mammals and plants. The key to urban conservation is to find the balance between the seemingly conflicting goals of allowing development density and protecting natural resources. Photos - Sensitive species (peregrine falcon) in the city. Confining growth to reduce urban sprawl will protect fish and wildlife habitat outside of urban growth boundaries (UGBs). Maintaining healthy streams, natural areas and movement corridors within UGBs will help to ensure that urban land uses contribute towards conservation within the larger landscape. Although this is a challenging equilibrium to define and reach, it goes hand-in-hand with maintaining the high quality of life experienced in this region due to clean air, healthy waterways, the presence of fish and wildlife, access to nature and scenic surroundings within city limits.

A Model for Urban Communities

The Greenspaces Program serves as a model that can be applied to protect fish and wildlife and their habitats in other urban areas. Ever-expanding urban areas often contain significant habitat for at-risk fish and wildlife species and offer enormous opportunities to reach the public. Sensitive areas and species can be protected given public support and effective long-term planning and implementation. This Program has allowed Metro and the USFWS to work pro-actively with local communities and partners in a variety of ways to protect and restore natural areas and promote environmental education. These activities engage the public, build support for natural resource conservation, and lead to ongoing citizen involvement in environmental issues.

* Metro is the regional government that provides integrated resource management for the 25 cities and unincorporated areas in the Portland metropolitan area. Facilities, public assets and governance services include the Oregon Convention Center, the Oregon Zoo, the Portland Center for the Performing Arts, the Metropolitan Exposition Center, transportation planning, growth management, solid waste system management and recycling services, and regional parks and greenspaces.

| Greenspace Contacts |


Items of Note

Greenspaces Final Report

Summary of Accomplishments 1991-2005

Greenspaces Grants
Image - Frog (Courtesy of Metro).
Conservation and restoration projects that were funded throughout the Portland and Vancouver region.
Project Profiles