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UNESCO World Heritage Committee renews call for Gros Morne buffer zone

  • Published on May 27 2016 |
  • This article is tagged as: gros-morne

UNESCO World Heritage Committee renews call for Gros Morne buffer zone: CPAWS reiterates need for feds and province to act

OTTAWA -- CPAWS welcomes a UNESCO World Heritage Committee draft decision, released publicly today, reiterating a call for Canada to create a buffer zone around Gros Morne National Park to protect it from industrial threats.  The recommendation will be voted on by the Committee at its annual meeting in Istanbul in July.  UNESCO first recommended a buffer zone around the park two years ago.

“In spite of strong local community and tourism industry support for the buffer zone idea, neither the federal nor the provincial government has acted on UNESCO’s 2014 recommendation. In fact they reported back to UNESCO that they didn’t believe a buffer zone was needed,” said Alison Woodley, National Director of Parks for the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. “We disagree with this conclusion and we are pleased that the World Heritage Committee did too. We urge the new federal and provincial governments to take UNESCO’s recommendation seriously and immediately start working with local communities to put a buffer zone in place.”

Buffer zones around World Heritage Sites are not a new idea.  While it is now general practice for new World Heritage Sites to be established with buffer zones around them, Gros Morne was designated in 1987 before the need for this added layer of protection was recognized.

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee first expressed serious concern about proposed oil drilling and fracking activities near Gros Morne National Park in 2013, indicating it would be monitoring the issue closely.  In response to a strong public outcry, the provincial government announced a moratorium on fracking to allow for more study and public consultation in late 2013. Shortly thereafter the federal-provincial offshore petroleum board (CNLOPB) decided not to extend a petroleum exploration license along the Gros Morne coastline. However, no long term measures were put in place at that time to ensure the integrity of Gros Morne. 

At its 2014 meeting the World Heritage Committee welcomed these positive steps, but noted that because they would not prevent the threat of future harmful industrial developments a permanent buffer zone should be put in place around the park.  The Committee also asked Canada to report back on progress in 2018.

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For interviews, contact:

Alison Woodley, National Director, Parks
awoodley@cpaws.org
613-203-1172 (cell)
613-569-7226 ext 230 (office)
http://www.cpaws.org
savegrosmorne.ca

View the UNESCO document at: http://whc.unesco.org/archive/2016/whc16-40com-7B-en.pdf