Portland getting greener

Portland has about 1.2 million trees in its parks, including these in Lents Park. The city's overall tree canopy sits at 30 percent.
Courtesy Portland Parks & Recreation

Portland has about 1.2 million trees in its parks, including these in Lents Park. The city's overall tree canopy sits at 30 percent. 

When it comes to trees, Portland isn't resting on its green laurels. it's getting greener.

The city's urban tree canopy has grown by 2.6 percent over the last decade, according to new data from a Portland Parks & Recreation aerial imagery study.

Trees now cover 30 percent of Portland. Compare that with Seattle's estimated canopy cover of 23 percent. Los Angeles has trees covering 21 percent of the city. The national average is pegged somewhere between 22 percent and 30 percent, depending on the methodology of the measurement.

City of Portland officials set a goal to reach a 33 percent tree canopy by 2030.

"I think we have the potential to go even higher than that," said Angie Di Salvo, botanic specialist with the parks department's urban forestry unit.

The new data comes from studying aerial imagery from 2000, 2005, and 2010. Over that time period:

  • Citywide canopy cover increased by 2.6 percent
  • Commercial areas' cover increased by 3.4 percent.
  • Industrial areas saw an increase of 1.5 percent.
  • Open space had a 1.5 percent increase.
  • Residential areas saw canopy growth of 3.3 percent.


Di Salvo said this is the first time the department has used this methodology to measure the tree canopy and will continue to monitor it in this way to measure progress.

She said the city's tree population got a boost from Portland policies such as requiring that trees be planted in parking lots.

"What we’re seeing is in line with our urban forestry goals of creating and sustaining a thriving urban forest in Portland, which includes expanding and enhancing our tree canopy, and embracing Portland’s unique relationship with nature," said Mike Abbaté, Parks & Recreation's director, in a news release.

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