Climate Action Plans: How do they affect animals of the area?

By: Alexandria Haris

Climate change has taken center stage in a myriad of spaces: national political debates, university campuses, comedy, and even more so in city planning. States such as California have taken numerous measures towards more eco-friendly practices as well as cities across the country including Portland, Oregon and Miami, Florida. Especially for cities that sit on the coast, as carbon emission and sea levels continue to rise, environmental concerns regarding flooding, rising temperatures, and loss of biodiversity have begun to grace the pages of climate action plans. Cities both hope to address climate change and mitigate and adapt to a growing list of concerns including environmental gentrification, solid waste containment, and spawning ground protection.

Oregon’s largest city is home to over 650,000 citizens and is well-known for its current climate action plan. Sitting on the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, Portland has a long history of timber and trading other commodities. Ever since 1843, Portland has been developing into the city we know today, attracting many tourists and growing as a green city that promotes sustainable city planning. In addition to city composting and plant stewardship programs, Portland also advocates for animal conservation in their 2015 Climate Action Plan. Besides caring for human health and well-being, Portland also focuses energy and resources on protecting the endangered salmon. 

The salmon in Portland thrive in the Columbia and Willamette Rivers. Due to rising temperatures in the water, the natural biodiversity of, including marine plant life and salmon, have been affected. Efforts to restore the salmon population have been underway for a year throughout Portland.      In the year 2020, Portland started its Crystal Springs Lakes project that entails “reducing water temperature from Crystal Springs Lake and improving habitat along the creek and lake edges; removing, repairing or repurposing an existing dam; and removing invasive species, focusing on yellow-flag iris.” Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the project was scheduled for completion in the winter of the same year. Restoring the biodiversity will be a significant success considering one in four species are dying off due to climate change.

With urbanization expanding and predicted to develop in the coming years, Portland will see a growing population. Considering the city’s bike paths, Portland may look to become a walkable city. A walkable city, as defined by Project Drawdown (, prioritizes two feet rather than four wheels through a type of specialized design. A walkable Portland would include aesthetic appeal with trees lining the sidewalks (which is done through the city’s planting stewardship program), access to mass transit (Portland offers public transportation and bicycling during their Sunday programs), and mixed-use of land and estates. Portland would continue to have dense communities to provide easy walks of ten to fifteen minutes. The appeal for Portland to transition to a walkable city would be supported by farmers and environmentalists who sell their produce and goods at Portland’s frequent farmer’s markets, who are concerned about green space vanishing. A “denser” Portland prevents urban sprawl encroaching on farmland and wilderness.

The tropical city of Miami sits at the east coast of Florida’s peninsula and is affected by increasing levels of flooding and stronger hurricanes. Neighboring the Biscayne Bay, Miami draws nature enthusiasts to visit the lagoon that provides a habitat for marine life including the famous Everglades swamps. The first Miamians drained out the Everglades and started the tropical tourism economy that to this day capitalizes on the wildlife of the area and the 1.5 million-acre wetlands preserve. The Everglades are home to frogs, turtles, alligators, crocodiles, manatees, insects, and birds such as the roseate spoonbill. among hundreds of other species.        In 1990, the Environmentally Endangered Lands (EEL) Program was established through a countywide referendum which approved tax increases to acquire, restore, and maintain environmentally threatened lands and through that, endangered species. Lands obtained through the program are shielded from urban development and continue to thrive as natural habitats. As the population of Miami (and generally worldwide) expands, urban growth  encroaches on natural habitats. Miami has identified its responsibility to restore, enhance, and protect the Biscayne Bay, the Everglades, and vital ecosystems.

By addressing land use and environmental protection, the city of Miami has taken proactive action to protect wildlife. Although the traditional American ideals of homeowning hold appeal for many people, urban sprawl of Miami contributes to deforestation, fragmentation, and development of greenspace. Another concern for Miami’s wildlife is flooding. Matthew Capucci for The Washington Post compares Miami flooding data to better illustrate the rising concern. In comparison to data from 1996, Miami has seen a 12-fold increase in “action tier flooding,” which is a measure of how many hours the city spent above the 1 foot flood stage. During 1996, the city has only been at the 1-foot flood stage for 5.4 hours, versus 64.6 hours between July 2018 to July 2019. Flooding is discussed in Miami’s most recent released plan in 2010; in fact, the issue is addressed in over seven pages. King tides in Miami carry salt water from the ocean over the mainland into the mangroves and coastal dunes that are critical spawning grounds and nurseries for marine species. Miami pushes forward a sustainable solid waste system to further avoid contamination in these endangered areas; protecting spawning grounds will further protect biodiversity of the Miami area.

Both of these urban cities share a common goal of protecting ecosystems: the salmon in Portland and the numerous species in Miami, through the means of wise land use and conservation efforts. Some conservation efforts stem from the cities’ climate action plans, however both plans focus on anthropological and flora aspects of sustainability. By understanding more about how cities are taking action, we can all become more informed on local efforts that affect meaningful policies in addressing climate change.

Sources: Crystal Springs Lake Restoration, Miami-Dade Greenprint, Portland Climate Action Plan, The Washington Post