By Peter Pollock, Lincoln Land Institute of Land Policy and Michael Wetter, Intertwine Alliance

As part of our Learning Network Webinar, Greenspace Conservation in Metropolitan America: Partnerships That Benefit People and Nature, we invited  organizations united by their membership in the Metropolitan Greenspace Alliance to share their work during the learning session, moderated by Peter Pollock, manager of western programs at Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Here, Peter and Michael Wetter, executive director Intertwine Alliance share some key insights and takeaways on the topic.

What makes land conservation in urban areas the same and different from that in rural areas?

From a land conservation perspective, metropolitan regions offer a special set of opportunities and challenges.  Competition for land among alternative uses is intense.  Land values are higher and conservation can be more expensive. On the other hand, urban land committed to nature yields a long list of benefits including greater biodiversity, climate resiliency, improved transportation connections, green infrastructure for stormwater management, education, community health, recreation and economic development. And people increasingly live in cities, so if we as conservationists are to remain relevant to large portions of the population, and cultivate the next generation of conservation leaders, we must bring conservation practice into the heart of metropolitan regions.

These urban efforts employ many of the same approaches to land conservation as in more remote, natural areas.  Groups are moving beyond individual “random acts of conservation” and are looking at conservation across a larger, landscape scale, creating connections that benefit wildlife and natural systems, as well as people.  Collaboration among a wide variety of individuals and organizations is used to help address the wide variety of issues and opportunities that are evident in large scale conservation efforts, bridging the many social, political, and geographic boundaries that can stand in the way.  Partnerships and coalitions are important for any landscape scale conservation work and they are particularly crucial in urban regions where the interrelationships of public, private and nonprofit organizations are complex and the multidisciplinary nature of the work requires cross-disciplinary partnerships.

How are networks helping these organizations?

There are a variety of coalition efforts throughout the United States, many of them connected through a network called the Metropolitan Greenspace Alliance.  The Metropolitan Greenspace Alliance is a collaborative platform to support existing coalitions and to support emerging coalitions. In doing so, we aim to establish metropolitan conservation coalitions as a conduit for federal government and national foundation investments in green infrastructure in metropolitan regions. Coalitions currently operate in Chicago, Houston, Cleveland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver, Seattle, Kansas City, Nashville, Baltimore and Portland, Oregon.


How this is playing out in Portland, Oregon

The Intertwine Alliance (TIA) is a coalition of over 160 public, private and nonprofit organizations working to integrate nature more deeply into the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan region. The Alliance’s mission is to build connections across sectors, geographies, disciplines, and racial divides, deepening the partnerships necessary to accomplish large-scale change. TIA is the keeper of a vision for nature in the Portland region, and works to attract the resources necessary to achieve that vision.

The role that The Alliance plays is similar to that of a backbone organization in the Collective Impact Framework, but The Alliance has turned collective impact on its head to create a much more inclusive and community-driven dynamic.

Key successes include development of Portland-Vancouver’s first region-wide strategy for conserving habitat, along with an atlas of biodiversity, works that were created by more than 100 contributors from dozens of organizations; the first complete, online interactive map of the region’s parks, trails and natural areas; the launch of a mobile that supports urban adventures in nature; and cohorts comprised of dozens of coalition members working together to advance diversity, equity and inclusion objectives. With Alliance support, health and environmental leaders are partnering on projects to benefit the community’s health and the environment, including prescription play and greening of schoolyards. TIA organizes twice-yearly summits, hosts forums on numerous topics, publishes a guest blog, and catalyzes, nurtures, facilitates and manages many other complex, collaborative initiatives.

Land conservation funders should consider the power that comes from enhancing nature right where most of the United States population lives.  In this way we directly bring the benefits of conservation into peoples’ lives, and connect them to the larger world of land conservation throughout the Country.


Resources on Urban Land Conservation:

Network for Landscape Conservation 

Metropolitan Greenspace Alliance


Amigos de Los Rios

Houston Wilderness

CityLab: Land Conservancies Enter Unfamiliar Territory: the City

About the Authors

Peter Pollock, Manager of Western Programs at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy

Since July 2006 he has been working with the Department of Planning and Urban Form to manage the Institute’s joint programs with the Sonoran Institute and the Center for Natural Resources and Environmental Policy at the University of Montana. He worked for almost 25 years for the City of Boulder, Colorado as both a current and long-range planner, and he served as director of the city’s Planning Department from 1999 to 2006. Pollock began his career as the staff urban planner for the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colorado, where he specialized in solar access protection, energy-conserving land use planning, and outreach to local communities. During the 1997–1998 academic year Pollock was a Loeb Fellow at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and a visiting fellow at the Lincoln Institute. He received his master’s degree in Landscape Architecture at the University of California at Berkeley in 1978 and his bachelor’s degree in Environmental Planning at the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1976.


Mike Wetter, Executive Director of The Intertwine Alliance

Mike Wetter is executive director of The Intertwine Alliance, where he leads
a coalition of more than 160 organizations working to integrate nature into
the Portland-Vancouver region.
Mike Wetter is a founder and Executive Director of The Intertwine Alliance,
where he leads a coalition of more than 160 of the most prominent public,
private and nonprofit organizations working on parks, trails and natural areas in the Portland-
Vancouver area. Mike’s work is to create a movement powerful enough to change investment
paradigms so that nature is integrated more deeply into the fabric of the metropolitan region,
creating economic, transportation, health, educational and environmental benefits for the region and
its residents. Mike previously was chief of Staff to Metro Council President David Bragdon, and
spent 13 years as a management consultant creating and managing organization development and
business strategies.