Climate Change

Conservation Priorities

Why climate change is a priority

Climate change is affecting people and nature in many different ways such as the heat island effectHeat island effect Urbanized areas that experience higher temperatures than outlying areas, droughtDrought A longer than normal time with not enough rain, wildfires, and flooding. Our goal is to promote resilient environments and help communities adapt to the changes they are facing.

On this page:

    Heat island effect

    With warming global temperatures, heat islands occur in urban areas with fewer trees and more pavement than outlying areas. Structures such as buildings and roads absorb and emit the sun’s heat more than natural landscapes. These pockets of heat have many negative, and sometimes dangerous, effects on humans and wildlife. Increasing warming from climate change is expected to make the heat island effect worse in the future.

    The hard truth:

    • Breaking records

      The summers of 2021 and 2022 were among the hottest on record in Portland. [1]

    • Air temperature discrepancies

      A 2020 study of 108 cities around the U.S. found that Portland had the highest air temperature discrepancies between its wealthy and poor neighborhoods. Portland’s heat islands are found in neighborhoods with the city’s highest proportion of low-income people and people of color. [2][3]

    How we can help:

    • Help communities

      We are partnering with local organizations to help communities prepare, adapt, and become more resilient in the face of climate change.

      Learn More


    Climate change has increased drought in many parts of the world, including the Pacific Northwest. Temperatures over the last two decades have been increasingly hotter than previous decades. This is leading to dry soils, stressed and dying plants, and water shortages.

    The Willamette and Columbia Rivers, and the salmon and steelhead that migrate through these rivers, are not immune to the impacts of climate change. Reduced snowfall leads to drier forest soils and less water in creeks and rivers. Come summer, rivers become shallow and warm which is deadly for fish.

    The hard truth:

    • Years

      According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, most of Oregon has been in a drought since 2012. [4]

    • Trees are dying

      Forest experts are seeing western redcedar (Thuja plicata) trees dying in areas where they should be thriving, such as along streams and in shaded areas. [5] Other streamside plants, like red alder (Alnus rubra) or willow (Salix sp.), are also dying from drought.

    • Harmful pests and diseases are moving in

      Pests and diseases are moving into our local environments, where they were not before, increasing harm to stressed plants and animals.

    How we can help:

    • Choose native plants

      Planting native plants and protecting healthy soil are key features in all of our restoration and conservation projects. Plants help sequester carbon and lower air temperatures.

      Learn More
    • Healthy soil

      Healthy soil holds moisture longer, and helps keep ecosystems healthier. Learn about our soil health services.

      Learn More

    Wildfire risk

    Oregon’s Willamette Valley was historically adapted to wildfire with the help of land care practices of Indigenous people, who kept the low-lying lands mostly free of dense forest. The landscape has since been altered by urban and rural development and more timber-oriented forestry practices, which include wildfire prevention.

    The hard truth:

    • Parched landscapes

      Hotter and drier summers and long periods of drought now create parched landscapes. This leaves forests, homes, and other structures across the state in greater danger of wildfire. Increasing extreme-wind events carry fire farther and wider than in the past.

    How we can help:

    • Promote new FireWise communities

    • Forest stewardship

      Create a forest stewardship plan to minimize the spread and impacts of wildfire.

      Learn More
    • Our Forest Conservation services

      We can provide strategies that you can use in your forest to increase its health, biodiversity, connectivityConnectivity a physical connection between habitat patches, and resiliency.

      Learn More


    Changing weather patterns are bringing more intense storms and atmospheric riversAtmospheric rivers A band of clouds that moves through the atmosphere capable of carrying and dropping massive amounts of rain. This is leading to more severe flooding. Caring for riparian areasRiparian areas The land alongside a creek, river, pond, or other body of water along creeks and waterways is important to help manage flood water and reduce erosion.

    How we can help:

    What you can do

    Learn ways you can help slow the impacts of climate change.

    two people working on a hill cutting and pulling ivy vines

    Actions you can take to reduce the impacts of climate change

    Example projects

    creek flowing through grassy meadow with trees

    Lower McCarthy Creek stream, wetland, and oak habitat

    McCarthy Creek flows from NW Skyline Boulevard to Multnomah Channel across from Sauvie Island. This creek is unique to the area, providing essential salmonid habitat, especially for coho and Chinook salmon. At the bottom of the watershed is 121 acres of privately owned land. Most of this land is wetlands and within the 100-year floodplain…

    View of Dairy Creek on Sauvie Island, Oregon

    Sturgeon Lake Restoration Project

    Sturgeon Lake is reconnected to the Columbia River! After over a decade of partnership building, planning, fundraising, and engineering, and just over four months of construction, in November 2018, the Dairy Creek channel reopened to tidal flow between the Columbia River and Sturgeon Lake on Sauvie Island. The successful completion of the Sturgeon Lake Restoration…

    Related services

    Find out if you're in our service area.

    Related services to help you with climate change issues:

    Staff contact

    Mary Logalbo

    Urban Conservationist

    Contact me about:

    Urban services; Stormwater & erosion; Partner funding; School & community gardens; Plants; Equity efforts; Wildfire risk on urban forests; our Long Range Business Plan.
    x 103

    Michelle Delepine

    Conservationist & Invasive Species Program Coordinator

    Contact me about:

    Invasive species
    x 115

    Kammy Kern-Korot

    Senior Conservationist

    Contact me about:

    Oregon oak, savanna, wetlands and riparianRiparian areas The land alongside a creek, river, pond, or other body of water habitats; Emerald ash borer; conservation planning and native plantings for pollinators and other wildlife on rural lands.
    x 108

    Scott Gall

    Farms & Soil Conservationist

    Contact me about:

    Soil health, farms and livestock
    x 105

    Laura Taylor

    Forest Conservationist

    Contact me about:

    Forest and woodland health; Wildfire risk in rural forests; Plants; Pollinators; Equity and inclusion.
    x 112