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Smith and Bybee Wetlands comprehensive natural resource plan project

Planning and conservation    Natural areas, parks and trails    Planning parks and trails    Planning future parks    Smith and Bybee comprehensive plan

Find out how Metro and its partners are working to ensure the health and well-being of the unique habitat at Smith and Bybee Wetlands. An updated management plan will guide stewardship of the natural area for the next 10 years.

Recognized by the Audubon Society of Portland as a priority habitat area, Smith and Bybee Wetlands is home to many native species including beavers, river otters, black-tailed deer, osprey, bald eagles and Western painted turtles. The comprehensive natural resource plan will guide the restoration and enhancement of Smith and Bybee Wetlands for the next 10 years and ensure that a thriving habitat will exist for future generations to enjoy.

Surrounded by port terminals, warehouses and other commercial developments, the nearly 2,000-acre wetlands have been managed by Metro for the past 20 years. The natural area offers extensive wetlands, sloughs and forested areas and also includes the now-closed St. Johns Landfill, a former wetland that was filled and served as the region's primary garbage disposal site from 1940 to 1991. The landfill is not currently open to the public. It is riparian with largely open meadows and spectacular views. It has significant potential for improving wildlife habitat. Metro has been working to safely restore and reintegrate the 238-acre landfill site into the overall natural area.

Smith and Bybee Wetlands comprehensive natural resource plan

A natural resources management plan for Smith and Bybee Wetlands was adopted in 1990 by the Metro Council and the Portland City Council. The plan was developed through a consensus of property owners, neighborhood organizations and residents, environmental interest groups and government agencies. Natural resource management plans are meant to provide long-term management guidance for large ecosystems. They identify pre-approved projects that comply with the City of Portland’s zoning code regulations (at the time of adoption) and may contain natural resource management policies specific to the ecosystem being managed.

Though the Smith and Bybee Wetlands natural resource management plan has not been updated since it was adopted, the environmental zoning regulations that the plan was based on has been modified more than 16 times. Several significant updates added development standards and a streamlined permit review. These changes allowed projects with little environmental impact to avoid review while still meeting the plan’s standards.

Recognizing that the plan was more than 20 years old and did not represent updates in wetland management practices, Metro and partners proposed to retire the document and replace it with a new comprehensive natural resource plan. After two public hearings, the natural resource management plan was retired by the Planning and Sustainability Commission and the Portland City Council on Oct. 19, 2011.

The goal of the comprehensive natural resource plan is to describe a course of action that will protect and enhance the area as an environmental and recreational resource for the region. The area will be maintained and enhanced, to the extent possible, in a manner that is faithful to the original natural condition. Upland habitats of the St. Johns Landfill will be functionally linked into the wetlands area, adding diverse habitats that support a greater assemblage of wildlife. Only those recreational uses that are compatible with environmental objectives of the plan will be encouraged. Smith Lake and adjacent uplands will be the principal location for recreational activities. Bybee Lake will be less accessible. Its primary use will be as an environmental preserve. The development of this plan involved many people. Special effort was made by the Smith and Bybee Wetlands Advisory Committee. They set the course for the next steps over ten years:

  • restoration of seven significant conservation target areas
  • construction of the regional trail and bridge around St. Johns Landfill
  • leveraging the Wetlands Fund with substantial grants to accomplish the goals of the plan
  • continuing a strong partnership with St. Johns Landfill in the transformation from landfill to upland prairie

Metro will submit an application to approve the Smith and Bybee Wetlands comprehensive natural resource plan and provide opportunities for public comment in the next few months. The natural resource management plan will remain in effect until the new plan is approved. 

The Intertwine at St. Johns Landfill

The Intertwine is the region’s network of parks, trails and natural areas. One of the most exciting aspects of the comprehensive natural resource plan is the development of a trail system with new access to Smith and Bybee Wetlands. With the creation of links to the 40-Mile Loop Trail and the North Portland Greenway Trail, the trail at the St. Johns Landfill will attract more people to and through the area. People from North Portland neighborhoods, as well as from neighborhoods with access to the regional trail system, will benefit from the healthy exercise and experience of nature at Smith and Bybee Wetlands. The trail will provide bicyclists, hikers, joggers, and nature enthusiasts continuous, non-motorized access within the site with views from the St. Johns Landfill to the wetlands, which are unmatched elsewhere on the site.

Smith and Bybee Management Committee members 

  • Troy Clark (chair), Audubon Society of Portland 
  • Carrie Butler (vice chair), Port of Portland
  • Bill Briggs, ORRCO
  • Dale Svart, Friends of Smith and Bybee Lakes 
  • Dan Moeller, Metro, Sustainability Center
  • Dave Helzer, City of Portland, Bureau of Environmental Services  
  • Eric Tonsager, Oregon Bass and Panfish Club
  • Lynn Barlow, City of Portland, Parks and Recreation 
  • Pam Arden, 40-Mile Loop Land Trust 
  • Patt Opdyke, North Portland Neighborhoods
  • Sara Henderson, St. Johns Neighborhood Association
  • Susan Barnes, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

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Janet Bebb

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Smith and Bybee Wetlands

Home to beaver, river otter, black-tailed deer, osprey, bald eagles and Western painted turtles, this 2,000-acre natural area offers accessible wildlife watching, a canoe launch and more.

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Western painted turtle

Discover Smith and Bybee Wetlands

Check out one of the largest populations of Western painted turtles in Oregon at Metro's 2,000-acre natural area in North Portland. Enjoy accessible wildlife watching on the Interlakes Trail, launch your kayak or join a guided nature walk. Go

Places and activities

From turtle walks at Smith and Bybee Wetlands to ancient forest tours at Oxbow, find lots fun things to do at Metro's parks on the online calendar.

Did you know?

Smith and Bybee Wetlands features environmental art

A large creation stone is the centerpiece of the visitor orientation area, reflecting the story of the Chinook people in which woman was born from a hole in a rock. Refresh page to view more art

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