Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I Like Maps

I like maps

Here's a map of North American watersheds (2MB) that I found at the Commission for Environmental Cooperation:

North American watersheds

It really helps to visualize the local watersheds and regions that make up Cascadia. The seaboard watersheds north of California (in mint green) and the light green range of the Columbia River watershed show its maximum extent. Note how the Puget Sound/Strait of Georgia area is a single watershed from the Fraser River to the Nisqually River. That's the heart of Cascadia, though I'd also include the Willamette River and Cowlitz River valleys for historical and cultural reasons--even though they are tributaries of the Columbia--along with southern Vancouver Island and the Olympic and northern Oregon coasts.

It's also a good demonstration of the other major ecoregions in North America. This raises an issue concerning management of our waterways. Wouldn't it make more sense to have bioregional management for the major systems, rather than relying upon the national and state governments do it? These are clearly federal issues because they cross state boundaries, so each national government could reasonably enact legislation creating watershed districts. Those that cross national boundaries could empower watershed districts by treaty, maybe as a modification to NAFTA. The organization that made this map, the CEC, was established as a supplement to NAFTA, so there's precedent for greater cooperation. It's just a matter of expanding the environmental agreement.

For North America, I see the following continental watershed districts based on this map, 23 in total:

Hudson Bay
Saskatchewan River
Great Lakes/St. Lawrence River
North Pacific (the rest of Alaska, and BC north of the Strait of Georgia)
Puget Sound/Strait of Georgia/Olympics (Cascadia proper)
Pacific Coast (Oregon and California)
Mexican Pacific (Baja to Chiapas)
Mexican Atlantic
Mexican Interior
Colorado River
Nevada (no outlets to the sea)
Rio Grande
Missouri River
Arkansas River
Ohio River
Mississippi River
Gulf Coast
Atlantic Coast

That would shrink the management scope from something like 97 governments (including federal governments, states, provinces, and territories), many of which are fighting over jurisdiction, to 23 each with a clearly-defined mandate. There would be some sharing of responsibility for major tributary systems to larger rivers (Missouri and Mississippi, say), as well as for all watersheds opening into a common part of the ocean (such as those around the Gulf of Mexico.

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