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 with fewer trees and more pavement 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, the intensity of the heat island effect in urban areas is expected to increase in the future. 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.

    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

    Drought and heat

    Climate change has increased drought and summer temperatures in many parts of the world, including the Pacific Northwest. Temperatures over the last two decades have been increasingly hotter and extreme than in 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. They are causing harm to increasingly stressed plants and animals that were once better able to resist disease. 

    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

      We can provide strategies for your forest to increase its health, biodiversity, connectivityConnectivity the degree to which patches of landscape are connected, either helping or impeding animal movement and other ecological processes like the flow of water or dispersal of seeds, and resiliency. Create a forest stewardship plan to minimize the spread and impacts of wildfire.

      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

    How you can help slow climate change.

    hand scattering seeds on dark soil

    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 and inclusion; 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 and Mediterranean Oak Borers; conservation planning and native plantings for pollinators and other wildlife on rural lands.
    x 108

    Scott Gall

    Farm & Soil Conservationist

    Contact me about:

    Soil health; Farms and livestock; Equity and inclusion
    x 105

    Laura Taylor

    Forest Conservationist

    Contact me about:

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