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Metropolitan Briefing Book

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Ecological landscape design, Natural areas -- Planning -- Portland Metropolitan Area, Open spaces -- Portland Metropolitan Area, Urban forest canopy, Landscape diversity -- Portland Metropolitan Area


While many factors are unique to communities on both sides of the Columbia River, our local and regional landscapes unite us and provide a shared sense of place. Bald eagles from the headwaters of the Tualatin basin are just as likely to forage in the Vancouver Lake lowlands as on Sauvie Island. Proximity to the Columbia Gorge, coast, high desert, and the Cascades adds to the region’s mystique and quality of life. But it’s the more proximate landscapes, those within our immediate radius of reach, that we treasure most. What matters most to the region’s residents are their streetscapes, neighborhood parks, and regionally significant landscapes, from Clark County’s Lewis River to the agricultural fields, wetlands, and floodplains along the Tualatin and Pudding rivers, and from the Tillamook Forest to the Columbia, Sandy and Clackamas gorges. This paper summarizes past and current efforts to delineate the landscapes that define our region’s sense of place, contribute to the region’s biodiversity and ecological health, provide recreational opportunities, and ensure access to nature nearby—the landscapes Portland State University’s Joe Poracsky refers to as the region’s “emerald compass” (Poracsky, 2000, 13-16). We also describe some of the region’s efforts to integrate its green infrastructure with the built environment across multiple landscape scales to attain a more sustainable metropolitan region.

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