• Buffalo Commons;
  • geographical imagination;
  • Great Plains;
  • regional geography;
  • regional metaphor

ABSTRACT. By crafting regional metaphors, geographers can help the public to understand and expand regional choices. As a metaphor for the United States' Great Plains, the Buffalo Commons stands for a large-scale, long-term ecological-economic restoration project. It has found an attentive audience in the last thirteen years and is in practice springing to life in the region. Comparable metaphors for other regions dealing with structural change are explored in this essay, using as main examples the Pacific Northwest, Detroit, and big cities generally. Metaphors, we conclude, differ from usual social-science tools because they engage the public in forming policy. The most effective regional metaphors are ambiguous, open-ended, and somewhat disconcerting.