Cascadian Connections: Mountains, Rivers and Minds

By Bob Ferris


I just received a holiday card from a friend my wife and I met a decade ago on Santa Cruz Island across the water from Santa Barbara. We met during a weekend work party removing alien, invasive eucalyptus trees from the reserve owned by The Nature Conservancy. Nothing remarkable here.  What is remarkable is that he sent his card to a five-year old address of ours in Vermont and the person living in that rural farm house took the time and effort to track down my new address and forwarded the card.
This card—with its smiling faces and a rapidly growing child—along with the act of this unknown Vermonter remind me of how important both connectedness and unselfish actions are.  This is particularly true to many of the wildlands and wildlife we seek to protect or enhance here in Cascadia.  Places like the Tongass National Forest in southeastern Alaska, for instance, are absolutely dependent on people who live outside of this amazing coastal landscape and are willing to speak up against clearcutting old-growth habitats in this 17 million-acre federal forest that is home to salmon, bears and the iconic Alexander Archipelago wolf.
Similarly our efforts to block coal and other fossil fuel exports like LNG from ports in Cascadia are all about a connectedness to Asia, the Northern Rockies, Southern California and the Pacific Ocean because much if not most of the associated air pollution; coal mining and natural gas fracking; wind-blown particulate matter; and ocean acidification happens or accrues outside of Cascadia.  Certainly there are regional impacts to consider but we cannot help but be motivated—like the person in Vermont—over feelings that what touches one touches all.  There is some sort of inherent global responsibility regardless of the remove.
This connectedness and need for unselfish acts is part of the reason why we at Cascadia Wildlands might falter when asked to define hard boundaries for Cascadia.  We go through this process where we start with the north-to-south mountains (i.e., The Cascades) and expand that vision of our bio-region eastward with the rivers that cascade into the northern portion of the eastern Pacific and westward to include waves, kelp forests and nearshore fish nurseries.  But neither of these constructs accounts for the true connectedness of the region or our organization.  
Our Cascadia defining exercise puts us in a quandary.  On one hand we feel the need to be provincial—almost isolationist and jingoistic—but then we understand that wolves will not recover swiftly if anti-wolf rhetoric in other regions is left unaddressed.  So we frequently deal with wolf issues in Idaho, Montana and Utah.  The same is true for efforts to bring reform to USDA Wildlife Services, block GMO fish or comment on black bear issues near Lake Tahoe.  We cannot and should not help ourselves in these instances for we know—just as the Vermonter—that if we do not take action that the connection or connectedness will not be maintained.  
We hope that others feel the same.  And we think that they do because 13% of our web traffic comes from outside the United States. We also count San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City in our top 10 web traffic cities which is good because we often need out-of-region political and other support on issues such as O&C lands, wilderness designations, and coal trains.  
Perhaps in the grand calculus of all of this it is less important where you live and more important how you think and what you love.  In this latter sense we are all connected and should be.  If you like it wild as we do you are part of Cascadia.