UNESCO World Heritage Committee repeats buffer zone recommendation for Gros Morne

OTTAWA – CPAWS welcomes the UNESCO World Heritage Committee’s formal approval of its recommendation that Canada establish a buffer zone around Gros Morne National Park to protect the park from potential petroleum development in the surrounding area. The recommendation was approved earlier today by the Committee at its annual meeting in Istanbul. This decision re-iterates a similar recommendation made by the Committee two years ago that the federal and provincial governments have so far failed to implement. The Committee has asked Canada to report back on progress by the end of 2017. “UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee and the Newfoundland and Labrador Review Panel on Hydraulic Fracturing have now both recommended that a buffer zone be created around Gros Morne,” said Alison Woodley, National Director of Parks for CPAWS. “Given the enormous public and tourism industry support this idea, it’s time for the federal and provincial governments to act, working closely with local communities.” In early June, the Newfoundland and Labrador Hydraulic Fracturing Review Panel released its final report, which also recommended that a buffer zone be created around Gros Morne to prevent petroleum development from harming the park and the local tourism economy that depends on its natural beauty and World Heritage designation.  The Panel noted that the public opinion polling they commissioned found that 92% of Newfoundlanders are in favour of a buffer zone around Gros Morne. CPAWS and Memorial University’s Grenfell Office of Engagement hosted a community workshop in March 2016 to discuss what a buffer zone could look like. Participants expressed strong support for a buffer zone that is free from petroleum exploration and development, while highlighting that traditional sustainable activities such as woodcutting and recreational activities are highly valued in the area and should be able to continue within a buffer zone. “Building on this work with local community members, we encourage the federal and provincial governments to move quickly to initiate an open, collaborative process to define what a buffer zone should look like.” said Woodley. “Now is the time to act to safeguard the park and its world heritage status from future threats. We shouldn’t wait for another crisis, like in 2013, when a company came to town and wanted to drill and frack for oil metres from the park boundary.” Buffer zones are now standard practice around world heritage sites when they are nominated but that was not the case when Gros Morne was designated in 1987. -30- For interviews, contact: Karen Turner, Director of Communications and Development, (613) 569-7226 x 232 or kturner@localhost View the UNESCO decision at: http://whc.unesco.org/archive/2016/whc16-40com-7B-en.pdf View the Newfoundland and Labrador Hydraulic Fracturing Review Panel Final Report at: http://nlhfrp.ca/ For more information: https://cpaws.org/campaigns/gros-morne