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Protecting natural areas

Planning and conservation    Natural areas, parks and trails    Protecting natural areas

Two bond measures have preserved 12,000 acres and 90 miles of river and stream banks, and supported hundreds of community projects. Together, we’re protecting water quality, wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation opportunities for future generations.

Discover in this section

Regional natural areas

Voters approved a $227 million bond measure in 2006, including $168 million to protect 27 regional “target areas.” Go

Projects in your community

Metro is distributing $44 million to local cities, counties and park providers to invest in nature close to home. Go

Neighborhood nature grants

The remaining $15 million goes toward Nature in Neighborhoods capital grants, which reward innovative projects. Go

Citizen oversight committee

An independent citizen committee analyzes the way Metro invests the 2006 natural areas bond measure and makes suggestions for improvement. Go 

Across the Portland metropolitan area, salmon are returning to streams where they haven’t been seen in decades. Oak trees are getting the sunlight they need to survive into old age, helping reverse their dramatic decline in the Willamette Valley. Families are hiking and bird-watching at new nature parks near Beaverton, Wilsonville and Happy Valley.

It’s our nature – 12,000 acres and counting – thanks to voters who approved natural areas bond measures in 1995 and 2006. And it’s our nature, as Oregonians, to protect and restore the special places that define this region as a legacy for future generations.

“Some of this is because of luck. We happen to live in a very beautiful place,” Metro Council President Tom Hughes said at his inaugural address. “Some of it is because we have appreciated that and recognized that and planned to preserve that to the greatest degree possible.”

Investing in every community

Voters have asked Metro’s Natural Areas Program to invest a total of $360 million in protecting water quality, wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation for future generations. The land preserved so far equal two Forest Parks, or one Beaverton. These special places – acquired in less than two decades – account for nearly one-third of the region’s natural areas and parkland.

About one-quarter of the latest bond measure goes toward neighborhood nature grants and a "local share" program that allows cities, counties and park providers to invest in projects close to home. Natural areas are being preserved, new trails and playgrounds are opening, stream banks are being restored. One partnership is greening the Interstate 205 pedestrian and bicycle path with native trees and shrubs.

At a regional scale, Metro buys land from willing sellers at market value. New natural areas must be located in one of 27 "target areas" selected for their high-quality habitat and ability to make a difference, from Wapato Lake on the west to the Sandy River Gorge on the east. Several areas focus on closing trail gaps, and many have the potential to improve water quality for fish, other wildlife and the humans who rely on clean drinking water.

Chehalem Ridge

Chehalem Ridge Natural Area

Different places, different futures

Some natural areas are intended to stay wild, because public access would damage the very qualities that made them worth saving. But the bond measures have allowed Metro to buy, restore and open three large-scale nature parks: Cooper Mountain near Beaverton, Graham Oaks in Wilsonville and Mount Talbert near Happy Valley. Other properties are likely to open in the future, when Metro has the resources to plan and build parks that balance people with wildlife.

One such place is Chehalem Ridge Natural Area, which made history in 2010 as the largest-ever purchase by Metro’s Natural Areas Program. The 1,100-acre forest features beaver ponds, valuable oak trees, streams that flow to the Tualatin River and views of five Cascade peaks. Metro is working to transform the young Douglas fir trees – a former commercial timber operation – into an old-growth forest that supports diverse wildlife.

When Lisa Sardinia heard the news, she recounts half-jokingly, she planned a party. Sardinia had two reasons to celebrate: She lives along one of the drainages from Chehalem Ridge, in a home she bought in part to nurture wildlife habitat. And she teaches biology classes at nearby Pacific University.

“As a neighbor, I am thrilled with the focus on maintaining water quality and wildlife habitat,” Sardinia says. “As a biologist and a teacher, I am looking forward to engaging students in projects at the site. Students will be able to conduct plant and animal surveys, test various waterways for chemicals and bacteria, and monitor the changes that occur as the site is restored. The property is one big learning laboratory!”

Timeline: A natural history

Two decades ago, the region envisioned a network of natural areas, parks and trails – and that vision is becoming a reality. Learn about milestones along the way.

tree and landscape

1992 The region comes together around a vision for a network of natural areas, parks and trails, approving the Metropolitan Greenspaces Master Plan. It provides a blueprint for future investments in the outdoors.

Chehalem Ridge tour group

1995 Voters in Clackamas, Multnomah and Washington counties overwhelmingly approve a $136 million bond measure to protect natural areas and complete missing pieces of trails. Metro mobilizes to protect land in 21 target areas across the region.

Clear Creek

1996 Metro begins protecting land near Clear Creek, which will grow into a 500-acre natural area beyond Carver. It provides a haven for wildlife, from endangered Coho and Chinook salmon to deer, coyote, beaver and river otter.

Springwater Corridor

1998 An agreement is reached to complete a missing three-mile section of the Springwater Corridor, from just south of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry to the Sellwood Bridge. Since opening in 2005, it has become one of the most popular trails in the region.

kayakers at Clear Creek

2005 Metro celebrates the 10-year anniversary of the bond measure, which is winding down. The bond preserved more than 8,000 acres of natural areas, protected 74 miles of river and stream banks and supported more than 100 local park projects.


2006 Nearly 60 percent of voters support a $227 million bond measure to continue protecting water quality, wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation opportunities. This time, 27 target areas are selected for their high-quality habitat and ability to make a difference.

Mount Talbert

2007 Mount Talbert Nature Park opens in Clackamas County, providing a forested oasis for people and wildlife in a busy suburban area. It is first of three major nature parks protected, restored and publicly opened by the two bond measures.


2008 An independent citizen oversight committee releases its first report on the 2006 natural areas bond measure, praising the core work and making suggestions to improve outreach, attract a diverse mix of grant recipients and better measure progress.

Cooper Mountain grass

2009 Cooper Mountain Nature Park opens near Beaverton, featuring high-quality wildlife habitat, vistas of the Tualatin River Valley and more than three miles of trails. The park is managed by the Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District.

Chehalem Ridge

2010 Metro makes its largest single purchase to date, protecting a 1,143-acre forest now known as Chehalem Ridge Natural Area. Nestled in the Chehalem Mountains near Forest Grove, it features valuable oak habitat, beaver ponds and views of five Cascade peaks.

kids at Graham Oaks

2010 Graham Oaks Nature Park in Wilsonville becomes the third major nature park, with trails traversing restored oak woodland, wetlands and a conifer forest. It also serves as an outdoor classroom for two schools with environmental education center next door.

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Natural Areas Program

Meet the team

Fritz Paulus

Fritz Paulus, real estate negotiator

"As a recovering attorney turned conservationist, my career has journeyed from 'trials to trails.' I buy land for wildlife habitat and watershed protection and to provide people access to nature. My 'clients' nowadays are the birds, plants and animals that inhabit the areas that I am helping to protect – what fun!"

Featured tool

Interactive map screenshot

Explore from home

Experience Metro natural areas through photography, video and writing on an interactive storytelling map. From Forest Grove to Troutdale and North Portland to Wilsonville, the region is filled with tales of the land. Go

Featured video

It's Our Nature Sockeye video

It's Our Nature

Transport yourself to a few of the forests and trails, clearings and creeks protected by Metro's voter-approved Natural Areas Program. Goosebumps guaranteed. Watch the video

Impassioned civil discourse in your pajamas - Opt In

Tracking progress

Three major nature parks

Mount Talbert hovers above busy shopping centers and neighborhoods in Clackamas County, offering a forested oasis. At Graham Oaks, the new Tonquin Trail meanders through a restored oak woodland in Wilsonville. And, nestled between the neighborhoods and farm fields of Washington County, Cooper Mountain provides a haven for wildlife. All three were purchased, restored and opened by voters.

11,000 acres

Thanks to voters, Metro has protected enough regional natural areas to cover the entire city of Beaverton – or, put another way, the equivalent of two Forest Parks. Natural areas range from small, hidden gems to large public parks, from Forest Grove to Troutdale, from forests to wetlands.

Mimic nature

Nature-friendly development

Nature-friendly development

Using nature-friendly development practices protects our natural assets as we grow by reducing the impact of development on natural resources. Also called green or low impact development, nature-friendly development practices look beyond the building envelope and focus on land development and site design that mimic nature's processes.
Learn more about nature-friendly development

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