Urban Forestry

What Will Become of Portland’s Tree Canopy?

Friends of Trees, the nonprofit that has been greening the city for years, has been released from its city contract. We wondered what was next.

By Matthew Trueherz November 30, 2022 Published in the December 2022 issue of Portland Monthly

Money doesn’t grow on trees, but it sure does follow them. The US Forest Service reports a direct link between urban tree planting and gentrification. Besides the evident aesthetic joys, trees offer temperature control: tree-poor neighborhoods reached temps up to 25 degrees hotter than tree-rich ones during 2021’s lethal “heat dome.” Climate change and real estate development have shrunk Portland’s canopy by 823 acres in the past five years, notwithstanding the efforts of Friends of Trees, the nonprofit that’s spent years planting trees via a network of volunteers. But a heavily publicized end to its biggest city contract has truncated the nonprofit’s efforts. The city has taken planting efforts in house, citing efficiency; only a few volunteer opportunities remain. In spite of a proposed budget expansion, FOT says it hasn’t been contacted about future contracts. But, says the nonprofit’s executive director Yashar Vasef, “it’s not Friends of Trees versus the city. We should all be planting.”

 2,857 Average number of trees planted per year by Friends of Trees over the past 14 years

4,000+ Trees per year the city has pledged to plant in 2023 

20 Years it takes an Oregon white oak to grow from a sapling to a mature tree

3,082 The number of volunteers who came out for Friends of Trees planting events in the 2022 planting season

$1 million Friends of Trees’ average annual budget for work in Portland the past 14 years 

$40 million The city’s proposed tree planting and maintenance budget for the next five years 

56 Percentage of the city west of the Willamette River shaded by trees

21 Percentage of the city east of the Willamette—where 80 percent of Portlanders live—shaded by trees

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