Defining a Bioregion

Bioregions are the natural countries of the world.

A bioregion is a self reliant geographic unit defined through watersheds, ecoregions, hard physical boundaries and the cultures that stem within them. Bioregion is short for ‘bio-cultural region’ and are geographically based areas defined by a physical traits; land or soil composition, watershed, climate, flora, and fauna; as well as the cultural traits of the inhabitants that live within them, and act upon them. Ultimately, they are defined by the people living within them.

  1. A bioregion is an area defined by natural boundaries, rather than arbitrary human made ones. These are generally ridges, peaks or trenches.

  2. A bioregion is the full extent of the watersheds within an interconnected area, the largest sense of scale based on physical and cultural similarities that makes sense.

  3. A bioregion can be made up of many ecosystems, soil patterns, weather types, and in terms of scale is larger than an ecoregion, and smaller than a continent.

  4. While borders within a bioregion may be transitional, soft and fuzzy, bioregional borders tend to be jagged, and hard, such as mountain ranges, peaks, ridges, volcanoes, continental uplifts, tectonic plates and faults. These hard edges define how energy flows within a set of boundaries.

  5. Bioregional boundaries don’t stop at waters edge, but should be stretched outwards until the physical edges reveal themselves.

  6. A bioregion is the smallest unit in which the ecosystems and inhabitants can be self sustaining. This includes human habitation (food, water, energy generation, production, transportation, consumption and waste streams). It can be as small as one island, or depending on the inhabitants, be a part of an archipelago or connected island chain.

  7. Bioregions are natural countries, which may contain many nations, inhabitants and peoples.

  8. Culture plays a part in defining bioregions. Humans play a large role as part of their ecosystems, and shared concerns, values, language and culture stem from sharing a land base.

Learn more on our main Department of Bioregion page “What is a Bioregion?

Some Notes on Bioregional Planning

  • Bioregionalism uses these bioregions as a basis for mobilizing information, context and action. This includes

  • grassroots & community based systems of activism, organization and governance that are accountable, transparent and representative of the inhabitants of an area;

  • agriculture, land use and economy that is circular and regenerative, that lives within the carrying capacity of a bioregion, and puts more back in that it takes out;

  • bioregion as a framework that breaks global issues down to a local level in which every person can take action, and action grows from the ground up

Bioregionalism is:

  • Short Term & Pragmatic. Works within our system to adopt policies and changes that move us in the right direction of bioregionalism, and away from systems which are actively harming our planet and communities.

  • Long Term & Visionary. Works outside of our system in ways that are utopian, visionary and long term.


The goal of Cascadian bioregionalism is simple:

  1. Root movements, ideas, organizations and individuals into their place.
  2. Use bioregions as frameworks for developing local economies, cultures and ways of living that are sustainable, responsible and ethical.
  3. improve the well being of our inhabitants, bioregions and planets.