Greenspace and Bull Run Measures Slated for November Ballot

by Bob Sallinger, Conservation Director

Voters will have two important opportunities to protect natural areas on the November 2019 ballot. We will be working hard between now and November to ensure their passage.

Great Blue Heron, photo by Scott Carpenter

Metro Greenspace Bond Measure

On June 6, the Metro Council unanimously referred a $475 million greenspace bond measure to the November ballot to protect water quality, restore fish and wildlife habitat, and improve access to nature throughout the metro region. The measure allocates funding for acquisition of large natural areas and local nature parks, improving access and implementing restoration projects at existing natural areas, expanding the regional trail system, and integrating nature into regional projects such as improving public access at Willamette Falls.

The measure places a strong emphasis on advancing racial equity and making the region resilient to climate change. Bond measures are one of the most important and effective tools we have to protect nature in the metro region. Prior Metro greenspace bond measures in 1995 and 2006 resulted in the protection of more than 13,000 acres of greenspace. Portland Audubon members played a key role in helping to pass those measures, and the 2019 measure will again be a top priority for our organization. We were pleased to serve on the stakeholder advisory committees that helped develop the measure.

Increase Protections for Bull Run Watershed

In late June, City Commissioner Amanda Fritz brought a resolution before the Portland City Council to refer an initiative to the November ballot to strengthen protections for Bull Run, which passed unanimously. The Bull Run Watershed, located on the Mt. Hood National Forest, provides drinking water for the City of Portland. Rainwater and snowmelt feed the Bull Run River, which fills two reservoirs within the watershed. The water is conveyed by gravity through three conduits to an underground reservoir at Powell Butte.

A cornerstone of Portland’s protections for this critically important water supply is that a significant portion of this watershed is closed to public access and land-disturbing activities. This not only protects water quality but also provides largely undisturbed refuge for fish and wildlife. Currently, protections for lands managed by the City of Portland are located in City Code where they can easily be changed by a future council. One of Commissioner Fritz’s priorities before leaving office is enshrining these protections in Portland’s City Charter, ensuring that any future changes must also be approved by the voters. This initiative will provide much more secure protection for Bull Run’s water, old-growth forests, and fish and wildlife populations. We look forward to working with Commissioner Fritz to ensure that this amazing place is truly protected in perpetuity. 

The Portland Audubon board strongly endorsed both of these measures at its May and June meetings and the organization will work to help pass them in the fall. 

To get involved in these campaigns, please contact Micah Meskel at mmeskel@audubonportland.org.