Authored, originated, researched, and published by Sandy Wold, Ithaca. Artwork by Camille Doucet, Ithaca. c2002, 2010

What is a bioregion?

Bioregionalism is the ultimate manifestation of sustainability. It is an ecological region that sustains a community of organisms.

Wikipedia: Bioregionalism is a political, cultural, and ecological system or set of views based on naturally defined areas called bioregions, similar to ecoregions. Bioregions are defined through physical and environmental features, including watershed boundaries and soil and terrain characteristics. Bioregionalism stresses that the determination of a bioregion is also a cultural phenomenon, and emphasizes local populations, knowledge, and solutions.[1] . The term was coined by Allen Van Newkirk, founder of the Institute for Bioregional Research, in 1975,[5] given currency by Peter Berg and Raymond Dasmann in the early 1970s,[6] and has been advocated by writers such as David Haenke and Kirkpatrick Sale.[7]

How were the bioregion boundaries determined?

Using the above definition of a bioregion, the Cayuga basin watershed and subwatershed boundaries were chosen:

  • to make a feasible nine-month project
  • to delineate a human-scale sized region residents could feel a connection (one can bicycle or drive around the lake in one day)
  • to increase local awareness and appreciation for local wildlife and to inspire a desire to protect the habitats of wildlife.
  • to highlight interesting aspects of year-round, neotropical (migratory), and arctic (migratory) populations of birds and their relationship to habitat

When this project was first visualized, there was only one person writing about bioregionalism in Ithaca, and he referred to it as the "Finger Lakes bioregion." While it is true that the Cayuga basin shares similar geologic formations, natural history, food systems, and seasonal cycles of the other lakes in the Finger Lakes, what makes the Cayuga Basin unique from the other lakes is its endemic flowers (orchids), amphibians, and reptiles. To go with a bigger Finger Lakes watershed boundary (aka Owasco Watershed), we would have lost the ability to focus on the endemics which are usually threatened and in need of protection. Limiting the boundaries also allows for unique history (e.g. indigenous people of the Cayuga Nation, the Underground Railroad, the Women's Suffrage Movement, and the universities) to emerge.