From Alan Thein Duening:
Picture North America from space. Look at the upper left and start an imaginary line on the rugged coast of southern Alaska. Climb the ridges that encircle Prince William Sound. Cross the snowy teeth of the Chugach Mountains and descend through kettle-pond country to the feet of the towering Alaska Range. Rise again to the bitter heights and turning southeast along the crest, clip the corner of the Yukon Territory. Enter British Columbia and veer east through its folding north.
Turn your line south when you reach the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains. Follow the divide down the thousand-mile spine of British Columbia, across Montana, along the buttressed ridges of the Idaho border and into Wyoming as far as Jackson Hole.
There, leave the divide and turn westward toward the coast. Following the swells and benches that limit the Columbia Basin, dip southward into Utah and Nevada, then northward again around the high desert of central Oregon. When you approach the Cascade Mountains, veer southwest through the tangled topography of northern California to the crest of the Coast Range. Just north of San Francisco Bay, descend to the shores of the Pacific.
The line you have drawn is an unfamiliar one. You won’t find it on maps. But it shows a geographical unit more real, in ecological sense, than any of the lines governments draw. You have drawn a biological region, a bioregion. Specifically, you have outlines the watersheds of rivers flowing into the Pacific Ocean through North America’s temperate rain forest zone with a fifteen-hundred-mile belt of rain forests along the coast.
The unity of this diverse bioregion is the movement of its water; every ounce of moisture that the ocean throws into the sky and the sky hurls down on the land inside this region’s borders tumbles toward the rain forest coast. If it does not evaporate or get trapped in underground aquifers along the way, water will reach that dripping shoreline through one of several hundred swift, cold rivers. Most likely, it will travel through the Columbia or the Fraser rivers, home to the Earth’s greatest population of migrating salmon.
This place, defined by water running to woodlands, has no perfect name. You can call it Rain Forest Province, the North Pacific Slope, or Cascadia… Natural units of place such as this have always mattered more to people than has humanity in general or the planet in its entirety. Indeed, history is unequivocal; people will sacrifice for villages, homelands, or nations, even giving their lives. But humans seem unwilling to sacrifice for their planet, despite the fact that it is now suffering proportionately greater losses from social decay and environmental destruction than most countries at war.
David Landis Barnhill (At Home on the Earth: Becoming Native to Our Place: A Multicultural Anthology)