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What We Do

Why Protect Existing Trees?

Planting trees is a great thing to do, but little trees don’t store as much carbon as mature trees. They won’t make much of a difference for two or three decades. Letting existing trees and forests grow is essential to any climate goal we have. As trees get older, they absorb more carbon every year. 

Washington County's current tree protection policy is unclear and nearly non-existent.  Our goal is to stand with our community to influence decisions that will protect existing trees. To meet our climate goals, we have to make changes now. We know the many benefits of trees. Many researches believe that preserving our existing mature forests will be one of the best ways to slow global warming in the coming decades.


In many parts of urban unincorporated Washington County, large trees and groves are being removed to enable development. They are replaced with smaller species that fit on small lots and narrow parking lots. This is the opposite of what needs to happen to meet our tree canopy goals. An adequate urban forest canopy would mean significant benefits such as cooling our temperatures, absorbing pollution, soaking up rain that causes flooding, and other benefits. 

Washington County is one of the last places in the Portland Metro area that does not have a regulations to protect trees in its urban unincorporated areas, despite a clear need and years community requests for protections.  Strong tree protections are critical for our county’s environmental and community health, and to increase our ability to adapt to climate change.

Our goal is to show that trees and housing developments CAN coexist, and there are already examples around us! Check out our Housing and Trees Can Coexist page to learn more.

Help us protect existing trees in Washington County

Washington County's current tree protection policy is subtle, subjective and nearly non-existent. Many efforts have been made by the recognized community groups (CPOs) of Washington County as well as City Planners to request protection of our trees and natural resources.

Washington County is the only jurisdiction in the Willamette Valley with no specific protection for existing trees. Knowing this, our goal is to provide guidance for the community to assert influence on decisions within political, economic, and social institutions to protect existing trees.

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