Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is Cascadia?
CASCADIA IS A(N);
- bioregion defined by the watersheds of the Columbia and Fraser river valleys that stretches from Northern California to south east Alaska and as far east as the Yellowstone Caldera and continental divide. It encompasses most of the states and province of British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and Idaho, and parts of southeast Alaska, Northern California and Western Montana.
- inclusive social movement to empower every individual and community to be active around issues they care, and find solidarity and support.
- regional identity, rooted in a love of place and stemming from shared experiences, environment, and need, as well as principles and values.
- positive vision for a bioregion that is resilient, vibrant and autonomous, that protects the things we find special
The term Cascadia was first used in 1981 by Seattle University professor David McCloskey, as a way to better describe our growing regional identity, and adopted hundreds of early organizers, academics, indigenous activists, policy planners, and environmentalists who came together for what become termed Cascadian Bioregional Congresses. McCloskey describes Cascadia as “a land of falling waters.” He notes the blending of the natural integrity and the sociocultural unity that gives Cascadia its character. Culture stems from place, and we will have more in common with each other, than those in a distant seat of power with little vested interest in our region or people. The Cascadia movement works to create more democratic, decentralized, sustainable, local and ethical models for the world, and is built on the idea that every person can be active around the issues they care about.
Read more on our Cascadia Primer Page
Where does the name Cascadia come from?
Cascadia is the name given to the land by the people who live here. Illahee translates to “Land, country, earth, soil – in both physical and political sense”, and Cascadia Illahee means the Cascadia region, or the land of the Cascadia people (watersheds of the Columbia, Fraser and Snake) in traditional Chinook Jargon. While indigenous groups had many different names for specific areas, there was no unified name for the broader bioregion at large. Many people assume that Cascadia is named after the Cascade Mountains.
Rather, the mountains take their name from the same source as Cascadia: the cascading waters. The first written reference to the name stems from Scottish botanist David Douglas (for whom the Douglas Fir is named), who first explored the Columbia River Gorge in 1825 and wrote of the area’s “cascading waterfalls”. In a more recent context , the name Cascadia was applied to the whole geologic region by Bates McKee in his 1972 geology textbook Cascadia. Later, the name was adopted by David McCloskey to identify the bioregion. McCloskey describes Cascadia as “a land of falling waters.”
This name was chosen at early Cascadian Bioregional Congresses by hundreds of academics, activists, educators and indigenous organizers. The Cascadia bioregion is defined by the cascading journey that a single rain drop takes, as it falls on the north western edge of the continental divide as it flows to its final terminus of the Pacific ocean.
Read more on Cascadia the Name.
How is Cascadia Defined?
Stretching for more than 2500 miles along the Pacific Coast, the Cascadia bioregion is comprised of 75 distinct ecoregions that spread across an incredible diversity and range of habitats, wilderness and landscapes. These watersheds stretch from South East Alaska to Northern California, and from the crest of the continental divide to the Pacific coast westward. Colloquially, Cascadia is more simply known as ‘Salmon Nation’, and its borders extend as far as salmon swim.
Specifically, the Cascadia bioregion stretches from Mt. St. Alias South East Alaska down the Pacific Coast to Cape Mendecino in the South, and all the way to the Yellowstone caldera in the east, incorporating large portions or all of British Columbia, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and parts of Northern California, Wyoming, Nevada and South East Alaska.
It is defined by the Fraser, Columbia and Snake rivers, and uses watersheds as it’s basis for boundaries, rather than lines drawn by old white men who had never been to the area. This includes the watersheds of the:
- Clearwater, Eel, Rogue, Deschutes, Bulkley, and Bella Coola.
- Columbia, Fraser, Skeena, Snake, Stikine,
- Flathead, Salmon, Nechako, Klinaklini,
- Klamath, Skagit, Lillooet-Harrison, Clearwater,
- Shohomish, Homathko, Iskut, Cowlitz, Taku,
- Squamish, Quesnel, Santiam, Umpqua, Spokane,
- Willamette, Alsek, Kootenay, Nass, Thompson, and Pend Oreille.
From these, larger ‘ecoregions’ are defined; 75 total within Cascadia, which together make up the entire bioregion.
Learn more on our Ecoregions and Watersheds Page
Why is Cascadia Important?
Now more than ever, we need Cascadia and bioregionalism. Bioregionalism represents one of the best, yet least understood philosophies which can have a real impact on our world today, by every organizer and supporter, regardless of background or political belief. We will never be able to achieve any type of real decolonization, equity, sustainability while we work within the framework of the United States or Canada. Instead we must break down borders and boundaries which are arbitrary or negative, often lines drawn on maps by individuals who had never even visited the areas – and instead work in a holistic way which better accounts for the place, the geography, and the people.
We can do better. If others cannot achieve the vision we need, then we will do it ourselves.
Cascadia is a place and movement for the people who live here. It is the idea that we live in a very special place, with some of the last untouched and largest stretches of old growth rainforest, salmon, whales and hundreds of mountains, islands, oceans, lakes, deserts and so much more. Socially, we have some of the strongest democratic institutions in the country, and a very robust economy and quality of life, with some of the best education and healthcare possibilities in the modern world. But many of these things that make Cascadia so great are shrinking, and despite having one of the highest GDP per capita in the world, the region faces very real threats of homelessness, and an ever increasing disconnect with a political capitol thousands of miles away with little or no vested interest in being able to represent our region effectively.
Just as any name, Cascadia is a construct that help shapes an identity and place. While names are not necessarily that important – it doesn’t change the borders of the bioregion for example, which has been here before, people, and will exist well after – this region has had many in the near past: New Spain, Chinook Illahee, New Caledonia, New Archangel, New Georgia, the Columbia Department, the Oregon Territory, the Northwest, the Pacific Slope, Ecotopia, the New Pacific, Ecolopolis, each a construct working to serve a purpose or create an image imposed by a different power to be and often thousands of miles away.
“Where are you from?” she asks. “From the Northwest,” he replies automatically, without thinking. Then she shoots back, “Northwest of what?”
Rather than a term that defines its space from a capitol nearly 3000 miles away, Cascadia is the name of the land, given by the people who live here, and just as it’s a new name, it gives us a new opportunity to forge something new, something positive together, from a culture rooted in place and the shared values that arise from sharing a landbase. Just as the people who have lived here for thousands of years, Cascadia is an opportunity to forge a new shared vision for what is possible, created from the land and people living here. Together, Cascadia has the worlds 13th largest economy, a population larger than many countries, and is roughly the size of Mongolia. Rather than accidents of geo-political history, and arbitrary lines on maps which do not accurately reflect the place or the people – Cascadia seeks to find systems which can better reflect the social, cultural, ecological, economic and political realities of the place we live.
What is the Doug Flag?
The Cascadia Doug Flag was designed by Portland native Alexander Baretich in 1995, and is nothing more than a direct representation of the landscape of the Pacific Northwest. The green are for the forest, the white for the mountains and glaciers, and the blue for the skies, rivers and bodies of water and the Douglas fir because it stands as a symbol of resilience, whose growth range closely follows that of the bioregional borders of Cascadia. It the most common symbol for the Cascadia movement, but every person is encouraged to adapt and change to a way that is special for them.
What is Bioregionalism?
Bioregionalism at its most simple is a philosophy that connects people and ideas into place, which work watershed by watershed, in ways that are sustainable, democratic and just.
A bioregion is a shorthand designation for ‘bio-cultural region’ and is rooted in the idea that culture stems from placed and that human cultures develop in relation to the natural ecosystems they inhabit. It is a region defined by characteristics of the natural environment rather than by man-made divisions, and the sum of the ecoregions and watersheds of a particular place that gives a unified sense of geographic, topographic and living flora and fauna that all work together to create a ‘bio-region’. Cascadia is a land of flowing waters, and for the Cascadia bioregion, it is the topographic region that is defined from which a drop of rain hits the western side of the continental divide – and flows into the Pacific – from the headwaters of the Fraser and Columbia, to the headwaters of the Snake, which stems from the Yellowstone caldera.
Bioregionalists work to find solutions to the world’s most challenging issues by using bioregions to break large issues down to a local level, creating or magnifying solutions already being practiced in a community, and create accessible pathways for every person living in a region to be able to get active about issues they care about. Each watershed and community will be different, and each region and community will know their needs the best, and be the best to represent those needs.
What are the 75 Eco Regions of Cascadia?
The 75 eco regions are the: Olympic Chehalis/Willapa Cowlitz/Lewis Columbia Gorge Yakama Okanagan Kettle Highlands Salish Sea Mountain Valleys West Coast Icefields/Fjordland/Sunshine Coast Lillooet Kamloops/Nicola Plateau Fraser Plateau Chilcotin/Nazka Plateau Kwakiutl Anahim/Tweedsmuir Bella Coola/Coastal Gap Nechako Plateau Fraser Basin Bulkley Takla-Stuart/Babine Lakes Lower Skeena Nass Skeena-Nass Tlingit Archipelago Stikine Iskut Stikine Plateau Taku Glacier Bay/Fairweather Alsek Tatshenshini Kluane/St. Elias/Yakutat St. Regis/Bitterroot Palouse Coeur d’Alene/ Spokane Blackfoot/Clark Fork Flathead Kutenai/Kalispell Pend Oreille/Selkirks Kootenay Lakes/Kokanee Columbia Plateau Shuswap/Monashee Highlands Columbia Icefields Thompson/Clearwater Highlands Cariboo/Quesnel Highlands Fraser Headwaters Cape Mendocino/Mattole Upper Eel Trinity Redwood/Humboldt Siskiyou/Klamath Shasta Klamath Lakes /Modoc Rogue/Umpqua Coos/Coquille Siuslaw/Dunes and Lakes Alsea/Siletez Willamette Deschutes/High Level Desert Chinook/Tillamook Snow Cap Plateau Yellowstone Tetons Lost Rivers Bannock Owyhee/Shoshone Sun Valley/Wood River Snake River Plain Boise/Payette Sawtooths Lemhi/Challis Malheur Ochoco/John Day Nez Perce-Wallowa/Grand Ronde Salmon Nez Perce-Clearwater/Selway Walla Walla/Umatilla
Eastern and Western Cascadia are too different. Why do you think Cascadia would ever work?
Cascadia is a place based movement. We argue that culture stems from place, and that by sharing the same areas, we will have more in common than those who currently claim to represent our interests thousands of miles away. Current political differences, are rooted in a dysfunctional federal political system in which wedge issues are highlighted, while the fact that we actually agree about 90% of issues, and all want a better future for our children, and those currently living on the planet is downplayed.
Just as bioregionalism breaks down arbitrary political borders, it also breaks down arbitrary politics into one of better representing the place, the people and what is important to them.
Ultimately, if it stops raining, it affects all of us. If there is an earthquake it affects all of us. We cannot talk about dam removal or pollution along the Columbia river without every member of the watershed being a part of that discussion. The regions two largest cities Seattle and Vancouver BC are only 180 miles a part and share the same watershed – but are divided by an international border. It is becoming apparent to more people in Cascadia each day that society here is, in some ways, irreconcilably different from the rest of the United States and Canada.
Understanding the Pacific Northwest as one coherent region is bringing clarity to a lot of people who are growing more frustrated with the statuses quo imposed upon us from more powerful regions within the United States and Canada.
The identity of Cascadia is becoming a more true representation of who we are as a people.
Oh, Cascadia, that’s that political stuff, right?
Bioregionalism advocates for a necessary cultural and political shift, based around common principles, and shared values, and provides a framework for making these changes. We argue for policies that increase the autonomy and independence of the Cascadia bioregion, and bring our impact into a responsible, ethical and sustainable future.
However, the Cascadia movement is much broader than any one person, or organization. Each person and community will necessarily have different issues they care about, and rather than define these for people, we are simply here to provide space.
For some, this means social or racial justice, environmental protection, indigenous sovereignty, a local, bioregional economic footprint, while others may feel be privacy, civil liberties, open governance, direct action or a more political presence is a more relevant cause. Only together, collectively, do these help define the true breadth and strength of the Cascadia movement.
How long has the idea of Cascadia been around?
Cascadia as it exists today was heavily influenced by the bioregionalism movement of the 1970’s, inspired by Peter Berg and the Drum Foundation., seminal works like Joel Garraeu’s Nine Nations of North America, and Ernest Callenbachs novel Ecotopia, which portrayed an independent eco-state of the Northwest, and contained many then radical notions such as recycling and mass transportation. The Cascadia movement developed its roots in the 1980’s through a series of bioregional congresses.
What is the Cascadia Department of Bioregion?
The Cascadia Department of Bioregion is a grassroots organization that creates a hub for bioregionalism, building bioregional movements, resources for making positive change in our communities and a hub for the Cascadia movement. We are loosely modeled from the US and Canadian State Departments, and seek to show, rather than tell the world we are building.
We work to:
To promote the interests of Cascadia for a peaceful, prosperous, democratic world that benefits the Cascadia bioregion, it’s inhabitants and our planet.
The Dept of Bioregion is dedicated to placing the idea of Cascadia into mainstream thought as a viable solution to contemporary problems. This mission is shared with people and governments around the planet, ensuring we have a common path forward in partnership as we invest in the shared security and prosperity that will ultimately better prepare us for the challenges of tomorrow.
What is a Bioregion?
The word bioregion simply means “life-place.” Peter Berg and Raymond Dasmann use the term bioregion to refer to a “geographical terrain and a terrain of consciousness—to a place and the ideas that have developed about how to live in that place.” Kirkpatrick Sale distinguishes bioregions on the basis of “particular attributes of flora, fauna, water, climate, soils, and landforms, and by the human settlements and cultures those attributes have given rise to.”
A bioregion is a shorthand designation for ‘bio-cultural region’ and is rooted in the idea that culture stems from placed and that human cultures develop in relation to the natural ecosystems they inhabit. It is
a region defined by characteristics of the natural environment rather than by man-made divisions, and the sum of the ecoregions and watersheds of a particular place that gives a unified sense of geographic, topographic and living flora and fauna that all work together to create a ‘bio-region’. Cascadia is a land of flowing waters, and for the Cascadia bioregion, it is the topograhic region that is defined from which a drop of rain hits the western side of the continental divide – and flows into the Pacific – from the head waters of the Fraser and Columbia, to the headwaters of the Snake, which stems from the Yellowstone caldera.
What is the difference between an Ecoregion and a Watershed?
A Watershed is simply the area created from where a rain drop falls, to the body of water it connects to. Ecoregions are comprised of these watersheds, and are used to make up the areas of a bioregion. Ecoregions are similarly defined, but are expanded to include, physical, biological, and human realities that may stem from these areas. In terms of size, an ecoregion is larger than a watershed and smaller than a bioregion; or in political terms, larger than a county and smaller than a state or province. In the more than 750,000 square miles of Cascadia, ecoregions average about 10,000 square miles each, though ranging from 2,000 to over 30,000 square miles; again, size depends upon the unique character and context of the place itself. An ecoregion in Cascadia often covers several degrees of latitude and perhaps longitude.
What is the best way for me to get involved?
- SHARE ON SOCIAL MEDIA
Wish all your fellow friends, family and Cascadians a happy Cascadia Day! Read an article recently you liked? Have a cool project you did? Did you recently read an article on bioregionalism that you enjoyed? Do you have a photo of you reppin’ Cascadia gear? Sharing content online that relates to Cascadia movement can be a powerful way to celebrate! Any online platform from Facebook to Twitter or Pinterest to Email is a great way to share information or ideas to educate, spread awareness, and help expand positive bioregional action. Use #cascadia #deptofbioregion #cascadianow
- LET YOUR CASCADIA FLAG FLY
Break out the Cascadia Doug Flag we all know and love so much.
- REP YOUR CASCADIA GEAR
Whether you are covered from head to toe in blue, white, and green or simply representing the movement with a simple supporter pin, Cascadia gear is a great way to show support and to get people noticing the movement.
- CREATE ART
We have seen some pretty impressive ways that many people have started think outside the box when it comes to showing their Cascadian pride. Whether it’s painting your nails to represent the Doug Flag, baking up some Cascadia shaped cookies, or having a craft day with the kiddos to create some Cascadian inspired art, all are great ways to express your supporter culture for the movement.
- HOST A CASCADIA CELEBRATION
A great way to participateis to create or attend one of the many different community events that are being hosted throughout our bioregion. If there isn’t already an event in your region or you are interested in starting your own, we encourage you to start up any event that you think represents Cascadia. A few potential ideas include block parties, potlucks, movie nights, neighborhood cleanups, barbecues, tree plantings, wine tastings, or pub nights! No matter how big or how small, getting together with your neighbors and sparking up conversations about Cascadia and enacting some form of positive change in your community is what this day is all about.In addition, don’t forget to grab a passport – host a project, share an idea.
Cascadia is your movement, you make it happen!