Portland Redlined Redcedar Study

Is the health of redcedar a symbol for the inequities in our cities?

Help test this hypothesis!

"We hypothesize redcedar trees will be less healthy in historically redlined areas of Portland compared to non-redlined areas."
Joey Hulbert
Program Director
urban western redcedar trees with top dieback

The climates of our cities are changing

Some neighborhoods feel the heat more than others

Urban Forest Equity

Sadly, many of the hottest neighborhoods in cities are those occupied by Black, Indigenous, and People of Color communities. Arguably, the root of this injustice stems from America’s racist ideals and practices in the 1930s.

1936 Home Owners' Loan Cooporation

In the 1930s, the Home Owners’ Loan Cooporation (HOLC) determined the best and worst neighborhoods for bank investments in major cities throughout the US.

The legacy of these decisions is still apparent today.  Neighborhoods that were less eligible for financial investment opportunities have reduced forest canopy coverage and greater heat levels. More information and data available at the Mapping Inequality Project.

Recommended Article

Back Title

How Decades of Racist Housing Policy Left Neighborhoods Sweltering

RICHMOND, Va. - On a hot summer's day, the neighborhood of Gilpin quickly becomes one of the most sweltering parts of Richmond. There are few trees along the sidewalks to shield people from the sun's relentless glare. More than 2,000 residents, mostly Black, live in low-income public housing that lacks central air conditioning.

Given the differences in surface temperatures, we hypothesize redcedar trees will be less healthy in historically redlined areas of Portland compared to non-redlined areas.

Is the dieback of redcedar an effect of climate change?

If so, can the health of redcedar be an indicator of climate change vulnerability?

What can we learn from the areas where redcedar trees are unhealthy?​

Together we can explore redcedar as a symbol for the inequities in our cities.

Where are redcedar dying in our communities and what does that mean?

Redlining

Redlining is a term for the practice of discrimination and denial of services to foreign or non-white communities. The practice directed capitol away from BIPOC and immigrant families, creating inequalities in wealth that are still apparent today. 

The effects of redlining are also apparent in urban forests, including reduced access to green spaces, less canopy cover and higher surface temperatures, and less benefits of trees in general. Together, these effects indicate these redlined communities are less resilient to the effects of climate change.

Redcedar

Does the health of trees in redlined communities symbolize their vulnerability to climate change?

The dieback of redcedar is likely driven by hotter and longer droughts.

It may be one of the first tree species to show signs of heat stress in the PNW.

Together we can explore the dieback as a possible indicator of climate vulnerability in our communities.

How to get involved

Steps for contributing

Venture to these trees

The below trees were randomly selected from the City of Seattle Street Tree inventories. Venture to these trees and share about their health with iNaturalist.

Open the below map with your mobile device to navigate to specific trees

Open this link with your mobile device to view the trees in Google Maps.

Tree no longer present?

Please try to find another western redcedar tree nearby if the tree at that GPS point no longer exists.

Share an observation of the tree on iNaturalist and tag the projects below.

Best practices for making observations in urban areas

Please be respectful of the privacy of others

  • If possible, please avoid capturing photos of private property (consider taking photos toward the street instead)
  • Avoid capturing photos that include people
  • Be considerate of sensitive areas like school yards
Capture the below photos so the iNaturalist community can confirm the species is identified correctly.
 
  • Cones, if present
  • Bloom (white powder) on underside of newest foliage
  • Bark
  • Whole tree, if possible
  • Any observations of ‘other factors’ that may affect tree health

Have questions?

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