By Trees for Life Oregon
Trees for Life Oregon is a group of neighborhood tree team leaders and tree stewards whose mission is to preserve large-species trees and space for new ones to be planted. We do this through education and advocacy, including a summer program called Soak-it-Week.
The city declared a climate emergency in summer 2020. But the 116-degree temperatures that killed dozens of Portlanders in summer 2021 brought home in a visceral way the life-and-death stakes of climate crisis. During the heat dome, some Portland neighborhoods with little to no canopy were 25 degrees hotter than leafier, wealthier neighborhoods.
Large-species trees matter now more than ever.
Large-form trees—those that grow more than 50 feet tall at maturity and live more than 75 years—give us the most when it comes to health and environmental benefits. Think Douglas-firs or oaks or lindens. Science shows that big trees cool our homes and sidewalks, clean our air, manage our stormwater, reduce noise and crime, and enhance our mental and physical well-being in specific ways such as by lowering our stress levels. Small ornamental trees are pretty. But their limited leaf volume and relatively short lifespans do not offer the same level of benefits that large trees do.
Portland is losing its big trees to development and to individual homeowners who have the right to remove large trees on their property—half of all city trees are in people’s yards, not in the public right-of-way. Tree advocates hope that revising the City’s tree code, Title 11, which City Council is scheduled to do in 2024-2025, will address some of the loopholes that allow tree removal in development situations. But larger issues such as building and street design and how different City bureaus interact around decisions affecting trees also have considerable impacts on our private and public right-of-way trees.
Find more information about our work here and sign up for updates to keep informed about how you can help our large trees.