The Metro Council on Thursday signed off on a land exchange with the Port of Portland. In the exchange, Metro will gain approximately 280 acres at Smith and Bybee Wetlands Natural Area from the Port of Portland, and the port will acquire approximately 200 acres on Government Island from Metro.
Metro is already actively managing the land owned by the Port of Portland within Smith and Bybee Wetlands, so it makes sense for Metro to take ownership and continue to manage it consistently with the rest of the property, said Dan Moeller, Metro’s conservation program director.
“The deal makes sense from both a habitat and a management perspective,” Moeller said. “It basically changes nothing except ownership.”
Smith and Bybee Wetlands covers nearly 2,000 acres, making it one of the largest protected wetlands within an American city. Surrounded by warehouses and port terminals in North Portland, the wetland area provides vital habitat for rare plants and wildlife including western painted turtles, bald eagles and migrating songbirds. Exploring by trail or boat, visitors can also see beavers, river otters, osprey and black-tailed deer.
Metro has not been actively managing the 200 acres of land on Government Island in the Columbia River that was acquired with money from the voter-approved 1995 natural areas bond measure. Because access to Government Island is limited, time-consuming and possible only by boat, Metro has not prioritized funding to restore and maintain the land, Moeller said.
The Port of Portland manages 2,000 acres of Government Island and is actively working on restoration plans for the Jewett Lake area next to Metro’s parcel. The port’s restoration project will benefit fish, water quality and wildlife habitat, particularly for native juvenile salmon. Transferring ownership of Metro’s parcel allows port officials to maximize the benefits of their restoration work on the rest of the island.
The land exchange was an easy decision for everyone, Moeller said. “It consolidates land management and improves restoration opportunities,” he said.
The property transfers are expected to be finalized in the fall.