Pledging Allegiance to the Great Lakes Basin | Wis.Community

Pledging Allegiance to the Great Lakes Basin

(Cross-posted from my blog, Kaufman's Gull)

Officially and legally I am a resident of the State of Wisconsin as well as a loyal citizen of the United States. But for all practical, spiritual and ecological purposes I prefer to be a member of the Great Lakes Basin, a 95,000 square mile drainage area that connects at least part of eight states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York) and two nations. All five Great Lakes are found in the Basin which contains 9,000 miles of shoreline and 5,000 miles of rivers and streams: it's a pretty watery, forested, borderless world.

The Milwaukee area is located within the Basin's "Upper Midwest Forest-Savanna Transition" ecoregion which carves out a good chunk of eastern and northeastern Wisconsin, including Lake Winnebago and the Door Peninsula. A small piece of Lower Michigan, the northwestern part, also belongs to the UMFST.

While the entire State of Michigan lies within the Basin, only a relative sliver of southeastern Wisconsin does so, famously dividing the cities of Milwaukee and Waukesha in terms of water use as well as politics.

If you live within the Great Lakes Basin, you live, in many ways, a very different sort of Midwestern life than those outside the physical and mental boundary of the Basin. Some have called the Great Lakes region the "Middle Coast", more as a way of marketing than as a political distinction, "coasts" being thought more liberally-minded than the landlocked regions. Only pollsters and political scientists can determine if the population of the GLB is indeed more left-handed than right-handed.

The differences I am concerned with here are more elemental and natural. The words "beach" and "bird" and "shore"  and "fish" within the Basin evoke a much vaster, sandier, oceanic realm that is at odds with Wisconsin's traditional cows and lakes, farm fields and North Woods image. Gulls are hunters here, as well as scavengers. Terns and sanderlings grace our shores. The weather along these inland seas is cooler is spring, warmer in autumn and snowier in winter, unless the Lake water stays warm enough to turn the snow to rain. Thunderstorms tend to diminish as they approach the cooler air over the Lakes, though sometimes the "lake breeze", an on-shore wind created by cool water and warm land, can help to spawn storms.

The state that most reminds me of Wisconsin is Maine: similar climate, a long coast and lots of forest in the northern part. What Wisconsin lacks is fresh lobster and saltwater, serious flaws no amount of beer, brats, salmon or whitefish  can compensate for. (I pledge allegiance to New England, too.) Well, Door County cherries come close.

Being a member of the Great Lakes Basin has some political advantages, especially these days when the government of Wisconsin (located outside the Basin in Madison) and the government of the U.S. (located far, far away) are behaving in ways no loyal Great Lakes Democrat can much approve of.

Not that I'm ready to secede from the Union or join my fellow Basin Canadians, tempting as it is. But it is comforting and bolstering in these times to be part of some natural, God-given territory that holds all the not-too-polluted water, cherries and beaches a person could want, a land without a single flag or anthem.


June 2, 2010 - 2:03pm