For Immediate Release
Sept. 14, 2003

Office of the Premier


BIG SKY, MT - British Columbia entered into three agreements with U.S.
partners, aimed at strengthening cross-border wild fire management and
co-operation on environmental issues, Premier Gordon Campbell announced

The agreements were signed at a joint meeting of the seven western premiers,
chaired by Premier Campbell, and the 21-member Western Governors
Association. The memorandum of understanding to enhance fire protection was
agreed to by all premiers and governors.

"More than 7,600 firefighters have been involved in helping battle wildfires
in B.C. this past summer, many from the U.S.," Campbell said. "This
experience has shown the vital importance of cross-border co-operation, and
how we can work together as neighbours to protect safety.

"We all share a commitment to public safety. Today's agreement will help
ensure that we continue to work to fight fires more quickly, for the good of
citizens on both sides of the border."

"Canadian provinces are our most significant economic partners," said
Montana Governor and Western Governors' Association chair Judy Martz, who
hosted this year's meeting. "It is vital that we understand each other's
concerns and work together."

The firefighting agreement formalizes a commitment to working together made
during the 2001 meeting of the western premiers and the Western Governors'
Association. The agreement commits the parties to develop a work plan and
adopts six objectives from a joint discussion paper released by Manitoba and
Idaho in January 2003. These are:

* Improve standardization and harmonization;
* Ensure speedy and safe cross-border clearance of crews and equipment;
* Ensure continued co-ordination between states and provinces and national
firefighting organizations;
* Implement "closest resource protocols" on initial attack;
* Utilize joint training, safety and education programs; and
* Ongoing monitoring of progress on work plan implementation.

British Columbia also signed bilateral agreements with Idaho and Montana,
committing the parties to enhanced co-operation towards stronger
environmental protection. These two environmental co-operation arrangements
are modelled after a successful agreement signed between B.C. and Washington
State in 1992. As was done with the B.C. and Washington deal, the agreements
will be implemented by the Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection.

Other issues raised by Premier Campbell included opening the border to
Canadian beef, softwood lumber and improving free trade, as well as energy,
border security and transportation.

This was the fifth annual meeting between western premiers and governors
since 1999 when they agreed to meet on an annual basis, alternating between
their respective annual conferences in Canada and the United States. Western
governors have been invited to attend the 2004 Western Premiers' Conference
to be held in Inuvik, Northwest Territories.

The firefighting memorandum of understanding is online at:
The environmental agreements with Idaho and Montana are online at