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The Pacific Northwest

The states of Washington and Oregon, along with parts of Idaho and the Canadian province of British Columbia, are often referred to as the Pacific Northwest. The coastal areas of Washington and Oregon are green and lush, and known for their changeable, often rainy climate. The area has a number of mountain ranges, including the Coast Mountains, the Cascades and portions of the Rocky Mountains. The eastern areas of both states have extensive arid regions. The east-west flowing Columbia River is a major feature. Seattle in Washington and Portland in Oregon are the largest cities. The large city of Vancouver in Canadian British Columbia shares many cultural values and regional identification with Seattle and Portland.

The urbanized western areas of the Pacific Northwest are known particularly for liberal politics and tolerance on major social issues such as reproductive rights, gay rights and decriminalization of drugs. The area also has a strong association with ecological awareness, more than anywhere else in the United States. By the same token, traditional Protestantism is not as widely practiced in the region as it is elsewhere in the United States. Alternate belief sytems and self-developmental disciplines are popular. Asian religions, particularly Tibetan Buddhism, have a real presence in the region. The interior areas tend to be more conservative and more closely associated with the religious right, yet they are less politically powerful because of their relatively small population.

Agriculture is important in the region. Both states are large producers of fruit, Washington being the number one producer of apples in the United States. The two states rank just behind California in fine wine production. Seattle is home to Boeing, a major aerospace company. Giant high-technology corporations like Microsoft, and, among hundreds of others, also make the Seattle area their home. Fishing, forest products, mining, metals, hydroelectric power, and outdoor tourism are also major industries.

The region is known particularly for outdoor activities: hiking, climbing, camping, boating, skiing and many others. The region’s local food products, from seafood like Dungeness crab and salmon to indigenous wild mushrooms and berries, forms the basis for a distinctive Pacific Northwest cuisine, which in some manifestation may show Asian influences. Ties between the region and Asia are strong. The Seattle area is also known as the coffee-drinking capital of the nation, the place where today’s American coffee house culture is said to have begun.

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