Action Needed: City Proposal Exempts Industrial Landowners from Tree Protection Regulations

Thanks to pressure from Bird Alliance of Oregon activists and others last fall, the City of Portland is in the process of reviewing its tree code (Title 11) which puts in place important protections for trees in our city. This process will occur in multiple phases. For the first phase, the City has released a proposal looking at two major issues:

  1. Mitigation requirements when big trees are cut down
  2. Exemptions from tree protections for commercial and industrial zoned lands. 

There is both good news and really bad news.

  • First the good news: The City is proposing to lower the threshold for “inch-for-inch” mitigation when big trees are removed from 36 inches to 20 inches. This is an important step forward which will help ensure that when big trees are removed, there will be appropriate efforts to replace them. The draft also proposes removing Title 11 exemptions for all commercial, and some industrial zones, which will significantly increase the amount of land covered by tree protections. 
  • Now the bad news: The City is proposing to continue an exemption for Heavy Industrial landowners (IH zoning) when it comes to protecting trees. The City is once again caving to wealthy industrial corporations who have never done their fair share when it comes to trees. Protecting trees on heavy industrial lands is critically important both for protecting our environment and our communities. Heavy Industrial lands are often in some of our most environmentally sensitive areas, for example along the Willamette and Columbia Rivers and Columbia Slough. They also are often adjacent to some of our most vulnerable neighborhoods, often with lower than average income and higher than average racial diversity. Holding Heavy Industrial landowners accountable for protecting trees is critical to protecting our communities and our environment.

Take Action

  1. Write an Email to
    Please send an email to staff to help shape the draft to further extend tree protections to some of the most tree deficient and vulnerable communities. See talking points below.
A photo looking up at the tree canopy with the sun filtering through the trees.
Gorgeous leaf canopies in the Portland area. Photo by Wil C Fry.

The decision to exempt Heavy Industrial lands makes no sense. The City has stalled on addressing this issue for more than a decade while industrial land owners have continued cutting trees with no accountability. The City and industrial land owners make a false argument equating tree protection with lost industrial acres, but in fact, if the tree code were applied, industrial landowners would have a choice of either protecting trees or mitigating for trees that they cut by paying into a fund for the City to plant trees. 

It is time to hold industrial landowners accountable. It is also time to hold the City Council accountable. In recent months, Council has passed resolutions asserting their commitment to building more equitable, healthy communities. Protecting trees that clean our air and water, absorb CO2, reduce urban heat island effect, and create wildlife habitat is essential to remain true to this commitment.

Check out the City’s website where you can watch a video summary of the draft, read background materials, see the proposed timeline for upcoming decisions.

Talking Points

  • Express appreciation for the extensive analysis, reception to community concerns, and initial steps staff has taken to remedy some of the major flaws of the Tree Code (Title 11) in this draft policy proposal. 
  • Support the proposal to reduce tree size threshold for required tree preservation as it will mean many more trees will receive greater protections and will lead to many more large trees to be retained in our communities
  • Urge staff to eliminate exemptions for ALL commercial and industrial zones INCLUDING HEAVY INDUSTRIAL (IH). Every zone type in the City should play a role in protecting and growing our urban tree canopy – especially in light of our climate crisis. It is a false narrative to pit trees against industrial land availability, and if industrial land owners cannot retain trees onsite they should be required to mitigate offsite to ensure that neighboring communities (many of them diverse and/or low income) are less impacted.
  • Protecting trees on industrial lands is essential to achieve the City’s commitment to build climate resilient equitable communities.

Thank you for advocating for Portland’s tree canopy and the environmental and community benefits it provides. 

Key Dates to Put on Your Calendar

Photo by Bob Sallinger