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The mission of the Neighborhood Naturalist program is to teach the people of the Willamette Valley region of Oregon that exciting natural experiences are just outside their window. We also promote the philosophy of bioregionalism. Read more...
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Many of us are fond of nature, but our understanding of nature is heavily influenced by TV, movies and other media. This is a misrepresentation of how nature really is. We live in a global consumer society with little or no connection to place and we regard nature as a collection of charismatic exotic species. We look outside our own communities for opportunities to visit nature. Of course, that means we need to travel...using airplanes, cars, trains and boats—costing lots of money and burning fossil fuels. Wouldn’t it be nice to easily visit a place that has as much natural diversity as you could possibly imagine? What if you could get there for free and go any time you wanted? What if, unlike visiting a distant place briefly as a tourist, you could visit this place daily? Wouldn’t it be great to learn natural yearly cycles and get to know the plants and animals intimately?
I’m not talking
about getting to know nature in your own region or state. I’m referring
to your own town, the nearby countryside and your own neighborhood. When
you learn more about local habitats, you become a passionate advocate
for sustainable development and preservation of open space. Nature is
always present to you—it’s not a faraway abstraction—Nature
is home. There are more species to learn in and around your own town than
you could cover in one lifetime. Your own neighborhood has titanic natural
struggles and unspeakable beauty that you can observe on any given day.
Nature is never dull, even on the tiniest of scales.
The term bioregion
is self descriptive, a place defined by the living systems within it.
A synonym used by various public agencies in North America is "Ecoregion."
I have used such resources as a guide in the map here but ultimately,
bioregion is determined by the community. The forest and vegetation patterns
are a primary influence in defining the boundaries of a bioregion but
geophysical features like mountains and watersheds are a direct influence.
The Willamette Valley is the area between the Coast Range and The Cascades
and north of the Umpqua River watershed. Basically it's the lowland areas
of Eugene north to the Columbia River. Some consider the area north of
the Columbia River to the southern tip of Puget Sound as part of the same
bioregion. That seems logical because it shares many species and geographic
features but I feel that the Columbia River is a dramatic boundary.
It is a concept that is as old as humankind itself but has been made more popular in this country by writers such as Gary Snyder and Wendell Berry. I've found that while political issues and broader concepts of sustainability are being covered by many community groups, natural features are less understood and underappreciated. Nature field guides and nature covered in the media tend cover topics on a scale broader than the bioregion. Our goal is to illustrate the specific natural aspects of our bioregion to its inhabitants. This supports the broader goals of bioregionalism indirectly by augmenting people's sense of place and joy for the natural features around them. This is done by showcasing endemic species, subspecies, local populations and local habitats. It may also include local natural and cultural history. It’s important to know how we got to our current state of affairs.
Are we a conservation organization? No—we don't
need to be.