Portland neighborhoods that were redlined in the past still face deep systematic injustices today. These neighborhoods now lack street trees, adequate infrastructure, and other forms of support, leading to some of the hottest average temperatures in those areas. Increasing tree canopy is a key strategy for cooling these “urban heat islands,” improving livability and making communities more climate resilient. But there are currently barriers to planting and maintaining street trees in Portland – a key one being that local residents must bear the costs. While the City acknowledges that lower income residents bear more financial burden in increasing Portland’s tree canopy, they were not seeking a solution. That is changing thanks to 350PDX.

Our campaign:

The Forest Defense Team is in the middle of a campaign to shift the cost of maintaining Portland’s tree canopy from residents to the City of Portland. That way, Portland can start planting life-saving street trees in neighborhoods with urban heat islands and create a more equitable tree canopy throughout the city.

We’ve made strides in this campaign!

We’ve already made progress, getting the City to dedicate $40 million from the Portland Clean Energy Fund towards growing Portland’s tree canopy where it’s needed the most – over the next 5 years. This is definitely worth celebrating, but our work is far from over.

Right now the City is deciding how to allocate that $40 million. On Dec 5, 2022, we sent a letter calling on Commissioner Rubio and PCEF program managers to create an inclusive committee for public and private stakeholders to determine how to effectively build out this new shade equity program so it is grounded in equitable partnerships and advances PCEF’s climate justice goals. Read the letter here

You can also read the letter we sent to Mayor Wheeler and City Commissioners in March, 2022

In March 2022, a coalition of Portland organizations including 350PDX sent a letter to Mayor Ted Wheeler and our City Commissioners – urging them to prioritize shade equity. The letter highlights the urgency of this issue, with the climate crisis driving more extreme heat events. Read the letter here

Thanks to all who came to our Heat Week Climate Resiliency Ride and Action Night!

We hosted a Pedalpalooze ride during Heat Week, where we rode bikes from Lents to Laurelhurst, discussed the impacts of extreme heat on our neighborhoods, and commemorated the lives lost in the 2021 heat dome. We also took action for equitable street tree access, sending postcards calling on Commissioner Rubio to champion a shade equity plan and ensure street trees are growing strong across our city.

News coverage on Heat Week and the Resiliency Ride:

During the Resiliency Ride, we recorded temperature readings.

These maps show how heat indexes can differ depending on what neighborhood your in — largely because of differences in shade trees:

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