Inventory of habitats
A 2002 habitat inventory and map of landscape and vegetative features identified 80,000 acres of significant natural areas – both riparian and upland – within Metro’s jurisdictional boundary, which contains about 280,000 acres.
Habitat areas were ranked based on their health and importance to fish and wildlife. Approximately one-third of the region’s riparian habitats and one-quarter of its upland habitats are classified as highest quality.
Of these high-quality habitats, 50 percent were in areas zoned residential, 20 percent in parks and open spaces, 14 percent in industrial areas, and 16 percent in areas that were either rural, commercial or mixed-use, as of 2002.
Besides habitat quality and regional social and economic values, two other factors influence whether land is protected or developed:
- how land is used or zoned
- how land is currently developed (if at all).
The status of land influences which policy tools are most appropriate to use to balance habitat protection and economic vitality.
Vacant: land that has no buildings, improvements or identifiable land use
Vacant (constrained): environmentally sensitive lands that are already under existing regulations for water quality, wetland and floodplain protection. Constrained land is not necessarily unbuildable; from 1998 to 2000, 363 acres of vegetated corridors established for water quality protection were developed.
Vacant (buildable): land not constrained by existing environmental regulations; development activities are most likely to impact regionally significant habitat
Developed: land that has improvements and specific land uses. The two types: urban and parks.
Developed (urban): land developed with residential, commercial or industrial uses
Developed (parks): lands used as public and private parks and open space, golf courses, cemeteries and trails; not considered available for urban development. Parks may be zoned as such or may occur in other zoning types.
Nature in Neighborhoods
In 2005, the Metro Council voted to approve a regional Nature in Neighborhoods program to meet the requirements of Goal 5, an Oregon statewide planning goal. Goal 5 requires that cities and counties protect the state’s natural resources and conserve scenic and historic areas and open spaces. It established steps for establishing protections:
- Inventory local occurrences of resources listed in Goal 5 and decide which are important.
- Identify potential land uses on or near each resource site and any conflicts that might result.
- Analyze economic, social, environmental and energy consequences of such conflicts.
- Decide whether the resource should be fully or partially protected, and justify the decision.
- Adopt measures such as zoning to put that policy into effect.
To help cities and counties in the region meet these requirements, Metro drafted a habitat protection model ordinance. Cities and counties can comply with Title 13 – Nature in Neighborhoods, in Metro’s Urban Growth Management Functional Plan by:
- adopting the ordinance as written
- adjusting the model ordinance to fit local needs
- developing their own approach to meet the required performance standards without using the model ordinance.
Examples of compliance with Title 13 are presented in diagram form for various habitat conservation areas.
The Tualatin Basin plan
In response to Goal 5, a consortium of eight cities, Washington County, Clean Water Services and the Tualatin Hills Park & Recreation District, with Metro developed a comprehensive fish and wildlife habitat protection plan for the Tualatin Basin. The plan uses Clean Water Services protection standards with expansion of a capital program to support restoration and volunteer activities. It was approved by Metro in 2007.