The boundary vista must be entirely free of obstruction and plainly marked for the proper enforcement of customs, immigration, fishing and other laws of the two nations. The job of keeping the boundary vista in proper condition falls to the International Boundary Commission. The Commission was founded under the Treaty of 1908 for one specific purpose: the complete reestablishment and mapping of the boundary from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. The boundary had already been defined by treaty and most of it surveyed by 1874. The fires of national honor, which had flared up over the legalities of boundary location and had colored American and Canadian relations for 140 years, had been relegated to the history books. But between1874 and 1908 the boundary had become overgrown and monuments obliterated so that it was necessary to reestablish the border demarcation to avoid any uncertainties that could lead to dispute. In 1925, when it was realized that such maintenance would have to be on a continuous basis, another treaty was signed establishing the Commission as the permanent caretaker of the boundary area and its markers.
The Commission is made up of two commissioners: one appointed in the United States and one in Canada, each chief of his own staff, equipment and budget. The U.S. Commissioner is appointed by the President and reports to the Secretary of State. The Canadian Commissioner is appointed by Order-in-Council, and reports to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. For administrative purposes, the Canadian Section of the Boundary Commission is located within the Department of Natural Resources Canada as a section of the Legal Surveys Division of Geomatics Canada.
Officially, the Commission's work
is described as maintaining the boundary in an effective state of demarcation.
This is done by inspecting it regularly; repairing, relocating or rebuilding
damaged monuments or buoys; keeping the vista cleared, and erecting new
boundary markers at such locations as new road crossings.
The Commission also regulates, under the provisions of the 1960 International Boundary Commission Act, all construction within 3 metres or 10 feet of the boundary and is responsible for defining the boundary location in any legal situation involving the border. The commissioners report annually on the work done during the year and provide to both governments the latest data on the boundary monuments.
All monuments along the boundary are located so that they tie in with the survey networks of both the United States and Canada through 1000 survey control stations established for this purpose near the border. The position of any monument may be redetermined at any time by the survey crews of the Commission, which are called on constantly to perform assorted survey duties along the boundary. These duties include improving survey connections to the control stations and establishing new monuments.
Over the last quarter century power-saws have greatly facilitated clearing operations.In addition a program of herbicide spraying treatment to control growth was carried out between 1952 and 1978, using chemicals approved by the enviromental regulatory agencies of both countries. The selective use of spraying allows existing grasses and ferns to dominate and prevent the growth of tree seedlings. No herbicides were sprayed near water or food crops.
In more recent years the spraying of chemical herbicides has been replaced by a vista grooming technique that involves stripping the vista by bulldozer and seeding the area with desirable grasses. An experimental project of this kind was carried out in 1981-1982 on the Maine-New Brunswick boundary, where the vista is now landscaped in a pleasing manner.
So far this program was succesfully carried out on the 125 kilometres (78 miles) of the North Line boundary, the 134 kilometres (84 miles) of the Southwest and South Line boundaries and a 66 kilometres (41 miles) portion of the Manitoba-Minnesota section of the 49th Parallel boundary. Maintenance on the vista following a grooming operation should be limited mainly to side clearing for a number of years.
Conventional methods of maintenance will continue to be employed on those remote and difficult sections of the boundary that do not lend themselves to grooming treatment. The present day emphasis on contracting out will result in a greater portion of the maintenance being completed under these arrangements.
The International Boundary Commission, under International Treaty, maintains the 8,891 km (5,525 miles) boundary shown on 255 official boundary maps. The Commission inspects, maintains and re-establishes over 8,000 monuments and reference points, 1,000 survey control sites and keeps a 6 metre or 20 foot wide clear vista along the land boundary line.
or 3,145 miles:
|Boundary on Water 3,830 km or 2,380 miles:||
|Length of boundary by province||New Brunswick- 513 km or 319 miles
Québec- 813 km or 505 miles
Ontario- 2,760 km or 1,715 miles
Manitoba- 497 km or 309 miles
Saskatchewan- 632 km or 393 miles
Alberta- 298 km or 185 miles
British Columbia-2,168 km or 1,347 miles
Yukon- 1,210 km or 752 miles
|Length of boundary by state||Maine- 611 miles or 983 km
New Hampshire- 58 miles or 93 km
Vermont- 90 miles or 145 km
New York- 445 miles 716 km
Pennsylvania- 42 miles or 68 km
Ohio- 146 miles or 235 km
Michigan- 721 miles or 1,160 km
Minnesota- 547 miles or 880 km
North Dakota- 310 miles or 499 km
Montana-545 miles or 877 km
Idaho- 45 miles or 72 km
Washington- 427 miles or 687 km
Alaska- 1,538 miles or 2,475 km
|Length of Canada-United States boundary from Atlantic to Pacific Oceans
Length of Canada-United States boundary from Pacific to Arctic Oceans
3,987 miles (1,788 miles-land) 2,199 miles-water)
2,475 km (2,183 km-land 292 km-water)
Such legal teasers were common during the 140 years it took to establish the present boundary location. In fact, the following examples became major issues in redefining the boundary from a general description in treaty papers to a surveyed and marked line on the ground.
In 1825, an American citizen symbolically raised an American flag on the north shore of the Saint John River, and then declared that he would defend its honor. Legally, could he have been tried for treason in a British court when ownership of the territory was in dispute?
In 1859, an American citizen on San Juan Island shot a pig - the property of the Hudson's Bay Company. Could law enforcers take him before a magistrate in Victoria and make him pay damages under British law?
In 1845, an American citizen made a claim on alleged land of the Hudson's Bay Company north of the Columbia River. Was this claim to be honored in territory already claimed by the British?
Attempts to answer such questions arose as settlers moved across North America. They resulted in clashes between the settlers, land claiming prompted by national pride and imperial design, and negotiations that sometimes approached open hostility. But in the end, diplomacy prevailed and the boundary was accurately described and marked on the ground, ending such problems.
The applicant wishing to obtain an authorization for work on the boundary vista in accordance with Section 5 of the Act must provide to the Commission the following documents:
1) A detailed letter describing the type of work proposed and it' s
general location(lot #, municipality, town, province/state).
2) Two copies of drawing showing the location of the proposed work in relation to a boundary monument or boundary reference monument.
The application must be submitted to the section of the Commission in the applicant's country.
If a permission is granted for construction by the Commissioners, the letter is valid for both countries.
International Boundary Commission
555-615 Booth Street
tel. (613)992-1294 fax (613)947-1337
International Boundary Commission
1250 23rd Street, Suite 100
Washington, D.C. 20037
tel. (202)736-9102 fax (202)467-0746
The Jay Treaty of 1794 created the first International Boundary Commission.
Over the succeding years Canada and the United States appointed a series
of temporary boundary commissions to oversee boundary surveys, mapping
and general maintenance. By the early 1900's the physical definition of
the boundary was largely completed.
With the Convention of 1818, the border was defined from Lake of the Woods to the Stony (Rocky) Mountains, establishing a frontier for land settlement across the western part of North America. The boundary survey from Lake of the Woods to the Red River Settlement was completed in the winters of 1872 and 1873 and the balance to the mountains in the summers of 1873 and 1874.
The expansionist cry,"54-40 or fight", of the Democrats, brought their man, James Knox Polk, to the presidency in 1844 best indicates the atmosphere in which the boundary from the mountains to the Pacific was contested in the Oregon boundary dispute. By agreement, the territory had been open to both British and American subjects leaving a situation ripe for conflicting claims by settler groups, encounters between imperial and national interests and political intrigue. Basically the United States claimed the territory up to Russian Alaska (54o 40' N) and the British claimed the land down to the Columbia River.
The Oregon Treaty signed in 1846 extended the boundary along the 49th parallel to the coast and through the Straits of Georgia and Juan de Fuca to the Pacific Ocean. Ownership of the San Juan Archipelago was established in 1873 in an arbitral award. This region was surveyed from 1856 to 1861 and the Strait of Georgia in 1906.
In 1903, a tribunal of three Americans, two Canadians and a representative of Great Britain, established the Alaska panhandle boundary. This section of the Alaska boundary was surveyed from 1904 to 1914. Under the Convention of 1906 the balance of the border, defined by earlier treaties as along the141st meridian, was surveyed from 1907 to 1913.
In 1925 the two countries created a permanent International Boundary Commission to maintain the boundary. The modern IBC is reponsible for:inspecting the boundary line;repairing or replacing damaged boundary markers; maintaining a clear 6 metre vista through the brush and trees;and helping to resolve disputes along the border as they arise.
Some crossings are noted for tourist traffic such as the Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls, which is close to one of the continent's major tourist attractions, and the crossing at Douglas, B.C.-Blaine, Washington, where a special peace arch commemorates the completion of the boundary from coast to coast and the friendship between two nations. Others are important as general crossings with heavy commercial and private traffic. These crossings include the port-of-entries on the Pacific Highway and at Sumas, Washington-Huntingdon, B.C.; Osoyoos, B.C.-Oroville, Washington;Sweetgrass,Montana-Coutts, Alberta;Estevan(North Portal), Saskatchewan-Portal, North Dakota; and Pembina, North Dakota-Emmerson, Manitoba.
Heavy commercial and private traffic rumbles through a tunnel and across a bridge(Ambassador) between Windsor and Detroit. Major bridges also cross the international boundary between Buffalo, New York-Fort Erie, Ontario(Peace Bridge); Sarnia,Ontario-Port Huron, Michigan(Blue Water Bridge);Watertown, New York-Lansdowne, Ontario(Thousand Islands Bridge);Cornwall, Ontario-Rooseveltown, New York(Seaway International Bridge); Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario-Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan; and Ogdensburg, New York-Prescott, Ontario.
In Quebec, major border crossings are the Blackpool(Lacolle)-Champlain, New York crossing, south of Montreal, and the Armstrong-Jackman, Maine crossing southeast of Quebec City.
In Maine-New Brunswick, important crossings are Madawaska-Edmunston and Houlton-Woodstock. Then there are those crossings noted for something unusual like the International Peace Gardens located between Bottineau, North Dakota and Brandon, Manitoba and at St. Stephen, New Brunswick-Calais, Maine, where the residents of the communities share a fire brigade.
|In Canada:||In United States:|
|Peter Sullivan, Commissioner
605 - 9700 Jasper Avenue
Telephone: (780) 495-7347
|Dennis L. Schornack, Commissioner
1250 23rd St. NW, Suite 100
Washington, D.C. 20037
Telephone: (202) 736-9100
|Al Arseneault, Deputy Commissioner
615 Booth Street, Rm. 571
Telephone: (613) 992-1294
|Kyle K. Hipsley, Deputy Commissioner
1250 23rd St. NW, Suite 100
Washington, D.C. 20037
Telephone: (202) 736-9102
|Joseph Harrietha, Senior Field Engineer
615 Booth, Rm 573
Telephone: (613) 992-1414
|Kevin D. Haskew, Engineering Technician
Eastern Region Field Office
Post Office Box 459
Houlton, ME 04730
Telephone: (207) 532-2111
|Joël Petit, Field Engineer
1138 Melville street, suite 1501
Vancouver, British Columbia
Telephone (604) 666-5320
|Presently Unoccupied, Engineering Technician
Western Region Field Office
Post Office Box 7007
Great Falls, MT 59406
Telephone: (406) 727-9341
Louis Carpentier, Field Engineer
615 Booth Street, Room 433
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0E9
|Bryan C. Cloutier,Engineering Techician
Central Regional Field Office
Post Office Box 29
Thief River Falls, MN 56701
Telephone: (218) 681-5248
Nathalie Brousseau, Field Engineer
615, Booth Street, Room 433
Telephone: (613) 943-4131
Updated: April 2, 2007