How to Find the Best Places to Plant Trees in Portland

Photo Credit: Kristin Ramstad

How to Find the Best Places to Plant Trees in Portland

Guest post from Kristin Ramstad with the Oregon Department of Forestry in coordination with the Western Urban and Community Forestry Network's #HealthyTreesHealthyLives social media campaign. Explore the hashtag #HealthyTreesHealthyLives on social media to learn more. 

The discussion of Dr. Vivek Shandas’ current multi-city research exploring the relationship between human health and environmental quality, called The Canopy Continuum, will be the topic of a future blog post. For now, let’s focus on a tremendously useful tool developed by Dr. Shandas and his team to identify areas of Portland most in need of increased tree canopy.

BranchOut PDX is a joint project between Portland Parks and Recreation and Portland State University to equitably improve and increase the tree canopy through the city. From the BranchOut PDX website (http://www.branchoutpdx.org/):

Portland has a goal of increasing tree canopy and its distribution to improve not only the environment, but also public health and livability. The project sought to identify the best ways to increase canopy, with a special focus on equity. Currently tree canopy in Portland is below the city’s goal. Additionally, existing canopy is not equitably distributed throughout the city: lower income neighborhoods have significantly lower tree canopy coverage and fewer street trees than other neighborhoods. The reasons behind this inequitable distribution of trees are complex, and influencing factors include property owner income (trees cost money to maintain), past planting practices, quality and availability of planting spaces, pressure from development, and community attitudes towards trees.

Among the goals of this project was to “create a publicly available, interactive planting map to help identify plantable areas based on city and community priorities.” By using socio-demographic, canopy cover, and air quality information, available through government and other public datasets, the team was able to create a mapping tool to help identify areas, properties, and property owners who could benefit from planting trees. 

This link: http://www.branchoutpdx.org/planting-map.html will take you to the planting map application. There, you will benefit from watching a short explanatory video on how to use the tool.

To read the final report on the BranchOut PDX project, learn about the process of engaging communities, and building the interactive tree map, please visit: https://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/article/705823 Also visit the Sustaining Urban Places Research Lab (SUPR) website to catch a glimpse of the other important socio-environmental research Dr. Shandas  and his colleagues are involved with: https://www.suprlab.org/projects.html.  

For more information, contact Kristin Ramstad, Urban and Community Forestry Assistance Program, Oregon Department of Forestry, at Kristin.Ramstad@oregon.gov or (503)-945-7390.