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Bioregional names in Northeast Ohio

Lake Erie at Mentor Headlands<br />Maybe you identify with Lake Erie.Cleveland Metroparks South Chagrin Reservation / Photo by Ian Adams<br />Maybe you identify with a type of forest.Greats Lakes Brewery in Ohio City<br />Maybe you identify with an urban landscape.Rocky River<br />Maybe you identify with a river.

In the 1990s, the group EcoCity Cleveland (precursor of the GreenCityBlueLake Institute) asked subscribers to its journal to think up bioregional names for their addresses. The names were inserted on the mailing labels after the zip code so people actually got mail addressed to their bioregion. Who knows what the Postal Service thought of this, but the journals were delivered. 

The names people created tell a lot about life in Northeast Ohio. Some of the names were serious; others were whimsical or sarcastic. Some defined very small areas (the creek in the backyard); other names were expansive (the Great Lakes Basin). But whatever the motivation, each name was a personal declaration of what's important about this place on the planet.

Here are some of the most interesting names:

950 Feet Above Sea Level
Amishturf Bioregion
Appalachian Escarpment
Appalachian Plateau Bioregion
Asphalt-Forest Edge Bioregion
Beech-Maple Forest Bioregion
Big Creek Watershed
Black River Watershed
Brown Squirrel Bioregion
Buckeye & Lilac Bioregion
By-the-Lakes Bioregion
Canesadooharie Bioregion
Center of the Heights Bioregion
Central Ohio Farm/Wilderness Area
Chagrin River Watershed
City Hall Bioregion
Crooked River Bioregion
Cuyahoga Bioregion
Cuyahoga River Watershed
Cuyahoga-Mahoning Summit
Cuyahoga/Black/Rocky Bioregion
Cuyahoga/Euclid Creek Divide
Cuyahoga/Tinkers Creek Divide
Deciduous Arbors Bioregion
Doan Brook Watershed
Eastern Deciduous Bioregion
Eco-Ravine Bioregion
Erie Bioregion
Erie Edge Bioregion
Erie/Ontario Lake Plain
Euclid Creek Watershed
Flatlands of the West Bioregion
Fragmented Mesophytic Forest
Frontier of Sprawl Bioregion
Geauga Highlands
Glacial Moraine Bioregion
Glacial Potholes Bioregion
Glaciated Great Lakes Plain
Glaciated Plateau Bioregion
Grand River Headwaters
Grand-Chagrin Bioregion
Great Black Swamp Bioregion
Great Lakes Basin
Hawthorn Heaven Bioregion
Height's Edge Bioregion
Hiram Lobe Bioregion
Hockhocking Rainforest
Holden Arboretum Subregion
Homo Sapien High Density Bioregion
Inner-Ring Burbs Bioregion
Lake Effect Bioregion
Lake Erie Ancient Shore Bioregion
Lake Erie Bioregion
Lake Erie Bluffs Bioregion
Lake Erie Lacustrine Plain
Lawn Chemical Region
Little Creek/Big Creek/Cuyahoga River
Little Cuyahoga Valley
Lorain Clay Bioregion
Lorain Lakeshore Bioregion
Lower Great Lakes Region
LTV's Shadow
Mahoning Valley Bioregion
Mentor Marsh Bioregion
Middle Kingdom Bioregion
Mountains Meet the Plains Bioregion
North Coast Bioregion
Norway Maple/Honey Locust/Yew Bioregion
Nuclear Lakeshed
Ohio & Erie Canal Corridor
Old Growth Suburb Bioregion
On the Portage Escarpment
Pesticide-Free Bioregion
Post-Glacial Woodlands Bioregion
Proliferative Building Bioregion
Rocky River Watershed
Semi-Urban Suburb Bioregion
Severance Asphalt Bioregion
Shaker Lakes Bioregion
Shale Beds Depot
Shoreway/Salt Mines Bioregion
Snow Belt Bioregion
South Erie Shore
Suburban Forest Bioregion
Suburban Sprawl Bioregion
Tallgrass Prairie Bioregion
Temperate Rain Forest Bioregion
Terra Regulatorius Bioregion
The Planet Earth
The Water Planet
The World Bioregion
Third Planet from Sol
Three Rivers Bioregion
Tinkers Creek Gorge Highlands
Transit Friendly Bioregion
Trumbull-Mahoning Bioregion
Turtle Island Bioregion
Unrealized Potential Bioregion
Upper Cuyahoga Bioregion
Urban Oasis Bioregion
Urban-Cement Bioregion
Western Reserve
The one with the tulip trees, trillium and wild ginger!

The Cuyahoga Bioregion?

The Northeast Ohio area is a diverse territory, and it's hard to think of one bioregional name that does it justice. We don't have one iconic natural feature with which everybody identifies (maybe Lake Erie, but people inland tend to connect more with nearby rivers).

Conservation organizations have started using "Lake Erie Allegheny" as the name for the ecoregion that extends from the lake to the glaciated Allegheny Plateau and includes areas of western Pennsylvania and New York. This name is appropriate for biodiversity planning.

But here's an argument for the name "Cuyahoga Bioregion." There are a number of reasons why this name feels right. 

First, it's an ancient name linking us to the early inhabitants of this place. No doubt it was
misquoted, mistranslated and otherwise butchered by European explorers, but it still connects us to a time when Native Americans lived sustainably on the land. And its rhythmic, chanting sound—Cuy-a-ho-ga—is rather more poetic than Northeast Ohio.

Second, it makes sense to name our bioregion after a watershed, for water shapes our lives more than anything else. Lake Erie is our lodestone. The river valleys both divide and connect us. Early settlements clustered around the water power of the region's waterfalls. Our industries grew up along canals and iron ore docks.

Finally, the crooked Cuyahoga ties together the great diversity of the bioregion. It links the snow belt of the glaciated Allegheny Plateau with the low Lake Plain. It encompasses the overlapping ranges of plants from the Appalachians, the South and the boreal forests of Canada. It flows through pristine wetlands near Burton, the pastoral valley of the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area and the gritty industry of Akron and Cleveland.

And so the name "Cuyahoga" can be symbolic of the entire region. It doesn't have to refer to one county or one river.

This bioregion stretches west to the Black River or perhaps as far as the Vermilion (anything further west relates more to the marshes and islands of western Lake Erie). To the east, the bioregion extends to the Grand River (beyond that you get close to Pennsylvania and the mountains). And the southern boundary is the Great Lakes watershed divide at Akron (everything further south flows to the Ohio River). Interestingly, this area also includes most of the regional economy.

You may prefer to live in a larger place, such as the Lake Erie Basin, or a smaller place, such as Doan Brook. The important thing is to develop a deeper awareness of your home territory and to commit yourself to learning to live in, or "reinhabit," that place.

Bioregional readings

  • Dwellers in the Land: The Bioregional Vision by Kirkpatrick Sale
  • Home! A Bioregional Reader edited by Van Andruss, Christopher Plant, Judith Plant and Eleanor Wright
  • The Dream of the Earth by Thomas Berry
  • LifePlace: Bioregional Thought and Practice by Robert Thayer
  • Writing from the Center by Scott Russell Sanders



...[The] all-encompassing task is to understand place, the immediate specific place where we live. The kinds of soils and rocks under our feet; the source of the waters we drink; the meaning of the different kinds of winds; the common insects, birds, mammals, plants, and trees; the particular cycles of the seasons; the times to plant and harvest and forage—these are the things that are necessary to know.
— Kirkpatrick Sale, Dwellers in the Land

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