We envision an exceptional, interconnected system of neighborhood, community, and regional parks, natural areas, trails, open spaces, and recreation opportunities distributed equitably throughout the region. This region-wide system is an essential element of the greater Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area’s economic success, ecological health, civic vitality, and overall quality of life.
The Intertwine vision calls for the creation of “a bi-state regional biodiversity recovery and management plan that would, among other goals, identify significant natural areas for acquisition and protection, develop innovative strategies to conserve the region’s natural resources, and ensure that large and small refugia are interconnected in every neighborhood and watershed in the region.”
The vision calls for specific outcomes that would result in the protection of a diversity of habitat types, plants, and animals across the urban and rural landscape; acquisition, restoration, and management of habitat connectivity for fish and wildlife; and long-term protection of the ecological integrity of streams, wetlands, rivers, and floodplains.
The Intertwine Alliance launched the Regional Conservation Strategy in 2010 as a way to develop strategies to achieve these desired outcomes. When combined with its companion document, the Biodiversity Guide for the Greater Portland-Vancouver Region, the Regional Conservation Strategy presents a shared understanding of the nature of our region. It defines the challenges facing local wildlife and ecosystems and offers a vision, framework, and tools for moving forward collaboratively to protect and restore our natural systems.
The Regional Conservation Strategy is unique in four ways:
• It focuses on the urban and urbanizing metropolitan region that has received too little attention in previous conservation plans.
• It gives equal attention to urban and rural landscapes and addresses the connections between them.
• It covers almost 3,000 square miles on both sides of the Columbia River and encompasses parts of Clackamas, Marion, Multnomah, Washington, and Yamhill counties in Oregon and Clark, Columbia, Cowlitz, and Skamania counties in Washington.
• It is paired with the first-ever science-based biodiversity guide for our region, along with high-resolution, cutting-edge mapping and scientific modeling that incorporate information from scientists and practitioners who have expert knowledge of the region.
We face the challenge of providing for growing human populations and needs while simultaneously addressing the needs of native fish, wildlife, and plants and protecting important ecosystem services such as water quality and plant pollination. If the predicted influx of people to the region becomes reality, many more native species are likely to decline across the region unless we become better at conserving and enhancing their habitat.
Representatives from Alliance partner organizations large and small collaborated for 2 years to create the Regional Conservation Strategy (with its supporting Biodiversity Guide for the Greater Portland-Vancouver Region) as a modern-day “owner’s manual” to guide the expansion, restoration, and management of The Intertwine—the region’s network of parks, trails, natural areas, and healthy watersheds.
Changes to the landscape have affected the region’s fish and wildlife species as well. Today, local runs of coho, Chinook, and chum salmon and steelhead trout are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. One out of every four bird species in the region is experiencing long-term population declines, and many species that used to be common, such as western meadowlarks, common nighthawks, and western bluebirds, are becoming rare. The streaked horned lark is a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act. Amphibian and invertebrate populations—both of which are critical indicators of ecosystem health—demonstrate a significant loss of diversity throughout much of the region.
Far too many people in our region lack access to nature within walking distance of their homes and suffer from what author Richard Louve describes as “nature deficit disorder.” With an additional 1 million people expected to move into the region over the next few decades, the pressures on our natural landscape will grow only more intense. The challenge of global climate change demands that we start now in integrating conservation, adaptation, and mitigation strategies to prepare for the unprecedented changes that lie ahead.
Although the challenges may be daunting, a combination of providence and planning has resulted in a region that retains much of its natural capital. Unlike much of the rest of the nation, we have managed to contain our urban footprint through regional growth management and good land use planning. We are fortunate to be surrounded by wildlife refuges, state and national forests, and working forests and farms. Our urban system of parks, trails, and natural areas provides the framework for creating an interconnected system of wildlife habitats and corridors that link to one another and the greater rural landscape beyond. And, with our vibrant urban forest canopy, ecoroofs, rain gardens, and naturescaped yards, we are recognized as a leader in integrating green infrastructure into our built landscape. Our region’s network of parks, trails, and natural areas is key to creating a lasting legacy for our children and future generations. That’s why the Regional Conservation Strategy describes how we can better integrate nature into the urban fabric at every scale, from individual backyards to larger, regionally important refuges and publicly owned natural areas. The Intertwine Alliance predicts that, in the future, our region’s children and adults will continue to have access to nature where they live, work, and play and residents will enjoy better health and a stronger economy and society—if we choose to implement the Regional Conservation Strategy.