Protecting clean water and restoring fish and wildlife habitat remain at the core of Metro’s parks and nature mission.
Restoration and maintenance work includes controlling weeds, planting native trees and shrubs, removing unnecessary or harmful culverts and roads, maintaining existing roads and infrastructure, decommissioning unauthorized trails, improving connections between streams and wetlands and strengthening habitat for fish and wildlife.
The local-option levy, first passed in 2013 and renewed through June 2023, provides money to complete weed assessments across Metro’s entire portfolio, and crews treated weeds in the vast majority of its parks and natural areas. That important work continues.
After Metro acquires a property, a stabilization plan is drawn up. Stabilization is like the renovation process for a fixer-upper home: it’s a lot of big projects to create a livable habitat. Invasive weeds start getting treated, and dilapidated buildings, septic systems and other structures are removed. This initial work is paid for with money from the 2006 and 2019 natural areas bond measures.
After a site is stable, a site conservation plan is developed to identify the most important actions to improve water quality and fish and wildlife habitat. A site stewardship plan is also developed to detail weed treatments and maintenance of fence lines, signage and more. Restoration work – often supported with money from the levy – can take years or even decades to complete, after which a site transitions to long-term maintenance.
Restoration's unexpected beneficiaries
After hiking at a natural area on a spring morning, Metro natural resource scientist Kate Holleran reflected on an often overlooked beneficiary of healthy habitats:
The first quick movement over the low grass caught me by surprise. A small snake moved rapidly away from me. Then I saw another. Then another. As I walked up the sunny south-facing slope on a late May morning, it seemed like every footstep generated a fast getaway by another young snake. I spotted a dozen or more over just a short distance.
On that day I was visiting a natural area in the west hills of Portland, walking up an abandoned power line corridor. Metro had recently protected the land with funds from the 2006 natural areas bond measure, and I was exploring the land to get to know it better. There was a mix of forest and shrubby habitat, with scattered logs and branches and thick piles of leaves on the ground. A stream ran along the border and seeped water onto an abandoned access road. The warm south-facing slope brought out the snakes to bask in the sun. I had, to my delight, shown up at the right place to see all these common garter snakes wiggling through the grass.
Much of Metro’s habitat restoration work benefits snakes and other small, less noticeable wildlife such as the Pacific jumping mouse, little brown bat or long-tailed weasel. We provide shelter and food for these little creatures by protecting or adding fallen trees, rock and brush piles, and standing dead trees called snags, and by planting abundant native plants in our natural areas. Making connections between habitat patches helps plants and animals to move safely to new areas. This restoration work, along with that of many partners, helps ensure that native wildlife can survive and thrive in our urban region.
From “Snakes in the grass equal healthy habitat”