The St. Croix River – A Model of International Cooperation
The international cooperative management of the St. Croix River, which forms 185 km of the Canada/US border, is unique in North America. Because actions that affect the waters on one side of the United States/Canada border can profoundly affect the other, the Governor of Maine and the Premier of New Brunswick jointly established the St. Croix International Waterway Commission to protect this beautiful maritime river.
Sharing A Beautiful River
For more than three decades, the St. Croix International Waterway Management Plan has guided management of its shared heritage resources. Today, development is accelerating beside the river and residents on both sides of the border agree that the St. Croix must prepare for, rather than react to, change.
Communication Is Key
Planning for the future while working within two very different jurisdictions is a complicated process. “One of the most challenging aspects of being an international watershed is communicating with each other,” said Abby Pond, Executive Director of the St. Croix International Waterway Commission (SCIWC).
Solving Problems Together
A very successful two-day conference, “Sustaining the St. Croix Watershed: Research, Partnerships, and Action”, was held by the Commission to bring together researchers, government agencies, residents, and business owners at the Huntsmen Marine Science Center. As a team, they charted a course for the sustainable use of the shared watershed with discussion focusing on four topics: Fisheries, Ecosystems-Based Management, Climate Change, and Resilient Communities.
“This event was a way of sharing who is doing what, but it was also a chance for people to meet and talk about how they might work together to solve problems,” said Pond.
A Joint Planning Tradition
Since 1993 when the Commission prepared its first plan, communication has been key, so it was fitting that St. Croix area residents, users and managers came together in a year-long consensus process. The resulting management plan established international goals and policies, took into account the differences in the mandates and structure of governments, and considered the evolving capabilities of all participants.
The partners committed to protecting and enhancing the Waterway’s natural and cultural heritage, emphasizing the importance of the river’s scenic landscapes and waterscapes; its fish, wildlife, forest and plant resources; and its quality of air, land and water. They noted its significant history, its traditional economic and recreational bases, and its rural quality of life. They agreed to better utilize the river’s resources, and to nurture new avenues for recreational and economic development while balancing growing demands on the land and water. The planning process focused on a long-term commitment to strengthening government and public/private partnerships to share more equitably the benefits and responsibilities of waterway stewardship.
A recent progress report concluded that there has been headway on all the major goals.
The St. Croix River was named a Canadian Heritage River in 1991. The designation was based in large part on the wide variety of recreational uses which it provides, including excellent canoeing, fishing, camping and wildlife viewing.