The U.S. West region refers to what are now the westernmost states of the United States.
|Table of contents|
3 Related topics
The West is the most geographically diverse region of the country, with several geographical regions running north to south. Along the Pacific Ocean coast lie the Coast Ranges, which are usually not very tall. They collect a large part of the airborne moisture moving in from the ocean. Even in relatively arid central California, the Coast Ranges squeeze enough water out of the clouds to support the growth of coast redwoods.
East of the Coast Ranges lie several intensively cultivated fertile valleys, notably the San Joaquin Valley of California and the Willamette Valley of Oregon.
Beyond the valleys lie the Sierra Nevada in the south and the Cascade Range in the north. These mountains are some of the highest in the United States. Mount Whitney, at 14,491 feet (4,418 meters) the tallest peak in the contiguous 48 states, is in the Sierra Nevada. The Cascades are also volcanic. Mount Rainier, a volcano in Washington, is also well over 14,000 feet. These mountain ranges are quite wet, capturing most of the moisture that remains after the Coast Ranges, and creating a rain shadow.
East of these great mountain ranges is a vast arid land, encompassing much of Nevada, Utah and Arizona. The Mojave Desert and Sonora Desert are two of the many deserts found here.
Beyond the deserts lie the Rocky Mountains. In the north, they run immediately east of the Cascade Range, so that the desert region does not reach all the way to the Canadian border. The Rockies are hundreds of miles wide, and run uninterrupted from New Mexico to Alaska. The tallest peaks of the Rockies, some of which are over 14,000 feet, are found in central Colorado.
Most of these states are growing rapidly. The coastal strip includes several major cities, but the areas between the Rocky Mountains in the east and the Sierra Nevada are still thinly populated. In 2000, Wyoming was the least populous state, with population of 493,782 while California was the most populous, with 33,871,648.
Because the tide of development had not yet reached most of the West when conservation became a national issue, agencies of the federal government own and manage vast areas of land. (The most important among these are the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management within the Interior Department, and the U. S. Forest Service within the Agriculture Department.) National parks are reserved for recreational activities such as fishing, camping, hiking, and boating, but other government lands also allow commercial activities like ranching, lumbering and mining. In recent years some local residents who earn their livelihoods on federal land have come into conflict with the land's managers, who are required to keep land use within environmentally acceptable limits.
Alaska, the northernmost state in the Union, is a vast land of few, but hardy, people, many of them native, and great stretches of wilderness, protected in national parks and wildlife refuges. Hawaii is the only state in the union in which Asian Americans outnumber residents of European stock. Some members of its substantial Native Hawaiian population are resentful of American sovereignty over the island chain.
Beginning in the 1980s large numbers of Asians have also settled in California, mainly around Los Angeles.
Los Angeles -- and Southern California as a whole -- bears the stamp of its large Mexican-American population. Now the second largest city in the nation, Los Angeles is best known as the home of the Hollywood film industry. Fueled by the growth of Los Angeles, as well as the San Francisco Bay Area, including "Silicon Valley", California has become the most populous of all the states.
Western cities' reputation for diversity and tolerance has been marred as of recent years by increasing profiling and segregation, police brutality towards minorities, and racially based riots. Nevetheless, perhaps because so many westerners have moved there from other regions to make a new start, as a rule interpersonal relations are marked by an individual and let live attitude. The western economy is varied. California, for example, is both an agricultural state and a high-technology manufacturing state.
Politically, the West is split between the Pacific Coast states and the interior states. The Pacific Coast leans towards the Democratic Party, due to its large number of urban dwellers and Mexican-American farm laborers. The rural interior states are heavily Republican.