Natural systems

2030 Objective: 80 percent of city-managed natural areas are in "healthy" or "good" condition.
Status: on track

Portland Parks and Recreation (PP&R) manages the majority of City-managed natural areas. Staff are responsible for managing over 8,000 acres within city limits, ranging from Forest Park, at over 5,000 acres, to a web of small but very important natural areas along the Willamette River.

Currently, 53 percent of City-managed areas are in "healthy" or "good" condition, which is the highest level that can be achieved. These terms refer to the ecological health of the area and are updated every five years by the PP&R Ecologist site manager. Healthy or good ecological areas include the following characteristics:

  • Structural and species diversity are present for the habitat type. (For example in forest habitats there are overstory and understory trees, tall and low shrubs, forbs).
  • Non-native invasive species are rare or with minor amount of intervention could be removed. 
  • Human impacts such as informal trails, trampling, erosion and dumping/camping are minimal.  If present, can easily be removed or permanently closed.
  • When present, streams and riparian habitat are intact. 

Condition of Natural Areas

View the interactive map

*Natural areas managed by the Water Bureau and the Bureau of Environmental Services are not shown in this interactive map.

Supporting projects

Additional strategies include plant diversity, salmon recovery and education

Native plant diversity provides an array of habitat functions including improved water quality biodiversity, fish and wildlife habitat, tree cover, and reduction of fire risk. In Forest Park, Oaks Bottom Wildlife complex, Marshall Park and other natural areas city crews and PP&R staff continue to remove invasive species and replace with native plants. 

Watershed based salmon recovery is another strategy. Portland Parks & Recreation was recertified Salmon-Safe in 2018; the park system has now been certified Salmon-Safe for 15 years (since 2003). These projects will restore natural channel processes, including reconnecting stream, wetland, and floodplains where possible, and restoring and enhancing riparian habitat. Projects are taking place at: Powers Marine Park, Willamette Park, Cathedral Park, and SW Greenway Central Reach to name a few.

Environmental education and stewardship activities are critical to helping citizens understand the connection between individual actions and broader environmental conditions. PP&R, other city agencies, and community organizations provide a variety of opportunities for groups to be involved in restoration projects and monitoring efforts.

Nature Patch projects foster habitat

PP&R's Ecologically Sustainable Landscapes Program supports Portland's Natural Systems goals with a multi-benefit approach to healthy urban nature. Nature Patch projects implemented through this program foster habitat within developed parks - increasing native plant diversity, enhancing ecological value for pollinators, providing environmental education and stewardship opportunities, as well as reducing maintenance inputs and water use. Learn more.

In 2019, funding from the City’s Recycling Rebate fund helped to establish the Gabriel Park Nature Patch - a beautiful, ecologically diverse pollinator landscape.

Designed in partnership with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, the Gabriel Park Nature Patch includes native and ornamental flowering shrub beds with natural seating and habitat features. This colorful, water-wise garden boasts a wide array of drought-tolerant species to create a unique display of sustainable plant selection. The nature patch, across from Gabriel Park's community garden and orchard, overlooks a beautiful pollinator meadow to the north that has over thirty varieties of native forbs, grasses, and wildflowers to support native insects and birds. Learn more about this and other nature patches at Portland Parks. <----update link