Good Day Maine: Canadian Forest Fires 47_Good_Day_Maine_-_Canada_Wildfires

June 9, 2023 02:06 PM



Foreign Aid:

Definition of foreign assistance from (U.S. federal website that tracks such spending): 

“Foreign assistance is provided by the United States to other countries to support global peace, security, and development efforts, as well as to provide humanitarian relief during times of crisis. The U.S. government provides foreign assistance because it is strategically, economically, and morally imperative for the United States and vital to U.S. national security.

For purposes of this website, foreign assistance includes activities funded from appropriations accounts that are made available for assistance for foreign countries, international organizations, and other foreign entities, which may include, but is not limited to, funds, goods, services, and technical assistance.”

U.S. Aid to Canada:

Canada had a gross domestic product of about 2 trillion in 2021 and is considered a highly developed nation. Nevertheless:

• The United States has given Canada $179 million in foreign aid from 2017-2022.


• Almost all of this funding ($177M) was spent by the Department of the Interior. 


Of that, the biggest vendor by far is Ducks Unlimited, a nonprofit that “conserves, restores, and manages wetlands and associated habitats for North America's waterfowl.” 

Ducks Unlimited got $148M in this time frame.


The Eastern Habitat Joint Venture

Why does Ducks Unlimited get so much money? This goes back to the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.

The North American Waterfowl Management Plan and Joint Ventures

From U.S. Fish and Wildlife website:

“Signed in 1986 by the United States and Canada and in 1994 by Mexico, the plan is the foundational bird conservation partnership upon which many others have been built. Its vision of collaborative conservation is as relevant today as it was some three decades ago.

The plan is innovative because its scope is international, but its implementation occurs at the regional level. Its success depends on regional partnerships called migratory bird joint ventures, comprising federal, state, provincial, tribal, and local governments; businesses; conservation organizations; and individuals. Twenty-two habitat-based joint ventures address bird and habitat conservation issues within their geographic areas in the United States, Canada and parts of Mexico.”

The plan is funded through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA), passed by Congress in 1989.

U.S. federal funding to “the 22 habitat-based joint ventures” (from a Ducks Unlimited webpage):

“Congress embedded two challenges in NAWCA to foster partnerships. First, all federal dollars would have to be matched by at least one nonfederal dollar before an applicant could qualify to receive funding. Second, because of the importance of Canadian habitats to waterfowl production, congress stipulated that at least half of NAWCA dollars had to be used for wetland conservation outside the United States, and those funds also had to be matched by nonfederal sources.

Rising to these challenges, state wildlife agencies rallied through the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and established annual funding goals to support habitat conservation efforts in Canada. This was a crucial step for waterfowl habitat conservation in Canada, and important also for keeping NAWCA dollars flowing to fund waterfowl conservation needs in the United States and Mexico. This commitment by the states to support waterfowl habitat conservation in Canada has been above and beyond what each has long been doing for waterfowl within its borders, demonstrating a strong commitment to the shared international goals of the NAWMP.”

So not only are federal funds going to Canadian conservation efforts, but also state funds. Canada also contributes funds. 

The Eastern Habitat Joint Venture

U.S. Foreign Assistance gave $24,033,293 from 2017-2022 to support the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture through Ducks Unlimited. This area includes the area impacted by the current wildfires. 

From Wikipedia:

The Eastern Habitat Joint Venture is a partnership established on 15 November 1989[1] between governments, organizations, and conservation groups in eastern Canada to protect and enhance wetlands important to migratory birds, under the auspices of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan

The founding partners were the six easternmost provinces (OntarioQuebecNewfoundland and LabradorNova ScotiaNew Brunswick and Prince Edward Island), the Canadian Wildlife Service (a branch of Environment and Climate Change Canada), Ducks Unlimited Canada, and Wildlife Habitat Canada.[1] As a signatory, each province was expected to develop and implement its own program.[2]

From the 2015-2020 EHJV Implementation Plan (published 2018):

“The EHJV is North America’s largest joint venture and at nearly three million square kilometres, it encompasses one third of Canada’s land mass, and two-thirds of the Canadian population reside within its’ boundaries. 


Since its inception, over 500 million dollars has been invested into EHJV habitat projects to retain or restore 26 million hectares of wetland and associated upland habitat. This corresponds to an area larger than the all of the Great Lakes combined.”

U.S.-Canada Air Quality Agreement

From the 2020-2022 Air Quality Agreement Progress Report:

“In 1991, the United States (U.S.) and Canada established an Air Quality Agreement (Agreement) to address transboundary air pollution. The Agreement initially focused on reducing levels of acid deposition, or acid rain, in each country, and in 2000, the Agreement was amended to also address ground-level ozone. A bilateral Air Quality Committee, established in the Agreement, is required to issue a report every two years, highlighting progress on the commitments included in the Agreement and describing the continued efforts by both countries to address transboundary air pollution.”

The agreement specifically targeted sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, which are key components in acid rain. 

The agreement specifically says

“Air pollution" means the introduction by man, directly or indirectly, of substances into the air resulting in deleterious effects of such a nature as to endanger human health, harm living resources and ecosystems and material property and impair or interfere with amenities and other legitimate uses of the environment, and "air pollutants" shall be construed accordingly;

USA Today article:

The majority of Canadian wildfires burning this spring and impacting US air quality are were caused by humans, experts say.


But with the exception of Quebec, which endured lightning storms this spring, most of the fires were caused by human activity, said Mike Flannigan, Research Chair for Predictive Services, Emergency Management and Fire Science at Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia.

Human activity, technology and products such as camp fires, power lines, agricultural burning and off-road vehicles typically cause more fires in the early part of fire season, while lightning causes those in the late summer.

Last year, 49% of wildfires across the country were caused by human activity.

Wildfire soot contains nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide, according to Washington Post article:

Additionally, the blazes can release nitrogen oxides, including nitrogen dioxide, or NO2 — an air pollutant that primarily comes from emissions from cars and power plants.

Breathing air with a high concentration of NO2 can irritate people’s airways, with short-term exposure leading to worse cases of asthma or triggering other respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing.

Nitrogen oxides can also react with other chemicals in the air to form particulate matter and ozone, both of which can be harmful to the human respiratory system when inhaled, according to the EPA.

These fires can also be a source of sulfur dioxide, a pollutant that typically comes from industrial activity, said Erica Smithwick, a wildfire expert at Pennsylvania State University. This gas can transform into secondary pollutants and affect air quality, human health and climate.

According to the 2020-2022 Air Quality Agreement Progress Report wildfires are currently being discussed under the agreement’s framework:


Canada doesn’t disclose forest fire emissions in the progress report, but the U.S. does. (PEMA stands for pollutant Emission Management Area.)


IJC is administered by the International Joint Commission, a nonprofit run by both Canada and the U.S.

According to the IJC website:

“The IJC has two main responsibilities: approving projects that affect water levels and flows across the boundary and investigating transboundary issues and recommending solutions.The IJC's recommendations and decisions take into account the needs of a wide range of water uses, including drinking water, commercial shipping, hydroelectric power generation, agriculture, ecosystem health, industry, fishing, recreational boating and shoreline property.”

IJC deals with water and air quality agreements between the U.S. and Canada. 

Requests for Comment

Environment and Climate Change Canada, the main contact for the 2020-2022 Air Quality Progress Report. 

I asked: 

  • Are wildfire pollutants considered when calculating pollution reduction progress as a part of the U.S.-Canada Air Quality Agreement?
  • In Table 1. PEMA Emissions, 2020 in the 2020-2022 report, Canada does not list its emissions from forest fires, but the United States does. Why is this?

The response:

  • They responded but asked for more time. I will update and let you know if they send any comment. 

Eastern Habitat Joint Venture, main media contact. 

I asked: 

  • How have the wildfires impacted the land within the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture?
  • How does the Joint Venture plan to respond to these wildfires in the long and short term, if at all?

The response: 

  • All good questions. The EHJV cannot answer these questions, it is  beyond the scope of what we currently do as an organization.

You could direct your questions to the Canadian Forest Service of Natural Resources Canada or the provincial departments of Natural Resources.  They  would be better able to answer these questions related to forest management policy.

International Joint Commission, which administers the Air Quality Agreement. I emailed both the U.S. and Canadian media contacts. 

I asked: 

  • How is the International Joint Commission responding to the forest fires, if at all? 
  • Is pollution from wildfire included in evaluations related to the U.S.-Canada Air Quality Agreement?

I received no response.

Ducks Unlimited, communications director. 

I asked: 

  • How have the wildfires impacted the land within the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture?
  • How does Ducks Unlimited plan to respond to these wildfires in the long and short term, if at all?

I received no response. 


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