CPAWS Welcomes UN World Heritage Support for Gros Morne Protective Buffer Zone

CPAWS Press Release published on May 1, 2014  

OTTAWA — CPAWS is welcoming a UNESCO recommendation encouraging Canada to create a buffer zone around Gros Morne National Park and World Heritage Site to protect it from industrial threats.  The recommendation in UNESCO’s annual report on the state of conservation of World Heritage Sites was released this week and will be considered for approval at the World Heritage Committee’s June annual meeting in Doha, Qatar.

“We’re delighted with this recommendation,” said Alison Woodley, Parks Director with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. “A carefully designed buffer zone would be a huge step towards ensuring that the park’s remarkable natural beauty and ecosystems are well protected from industrialization for the long term.

Last June the World Heritage Committee expressed serious concern about proposed oil drilling and fracking activities next to Gros Morne National Park, and indicated it would be monitoring the issue closely.  If the “outstanding universal values” of a World Heritage Site are damaged or destroyed, the Committee can remove the site from the World Heritage List.

Gros Morne, in Newfoundland and Labrador, was designated a World Heritage Site in 1987 because of its exceptional natural scenic beauty and geological features.  Petroleum development or other industrialization of the coastline would jeopardize the natural beauty and ecosystems of this spectacular national park.

“Creating a protective buffer around the park is important for the region’s long term economic well-being,” said Sue Rendell, owner-operator of Gros Morne Adventures, an adventure tourism business that has operated in the region for 25 years.  “Gros Morne National Park is a huge tourism icon for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and for Canada because of its spectacular natural beauty and unique geology. Over the past 40 years, a sustainable tourism economy has developed around this icon, especially in the Gros Morne region. The park has also had a significant impact on the growth of tourism from Port aux Basque to Southern Labrador. Making sure Gros Morne’s natural beauty and ecosystems are safe from the potential threat of incompatible industrial activities is of great importance to the tourism sector here and to the entire provincial economy.”

Last fall, in response to public and tourism industry outcry against proposed oil exploration, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced a province-wide moratorium on hydraulic fracturing to allow for more study and public debate.  Then in December, the federal-provincial offshore petroleum regulatory board refused to extend the proponent’s petroleum exploration license along the coast of Gros Morne and the Great Northern Peninsula. CPAWS welcomed these positive steps, but noted that they would not prevent future harmful industrial development proposals. 

CPAWS wrote to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in January suggesting that it recommend creation of a permanent protective buffer zone around the park to secure the site’s globally significant natural values for all time.  Buffer zones are a tool that is used to protect many World Heritage Sites around the world.

“We look forward to the World Heritage Committee approving this recommendation at their annual meeting in June, and to working with local community members, the provincial and federal governments, tourism operators and others to design and put in place a buffer zone that will help protect Gros Morne forever,” adds Woodley.


For interviews, contact:

Alison Woodley, National Director, CPAWS Parks Program
613-569-7226 ext 230
613-203-1172 (cell)

View the UNESCO document at:



Fracking on the West coast of Newfoundland

Hydraulic fracturing is a type of well stimulation that involves the injection of high-pressured water, sand, and a mix of chemicals to crack and prop open fractures in reservoir rock formations in order to release oil or gas. Flow back fluid (liquid containing toxic chemicals that returns to the surface after fracturing) and produced water (water coming out of the oil-bearing formations) come back out of the wells and are contaminated with hydrocarbons, chemicals, carcinogenic compounds, heavy metals, and sometimes radioactive elements.

Hydraulic fracturing has been used since 1947. But the modern fracking technique, called horizontal slick-water fracking, was first used in 1998 in the Barnett Shale in Texas and made the extraction of shale gas more economical. Fracking was combined with horizontal drilling in the early 2000s. The injection of a highly pressurized fracking fluid creates new channels in the rock, which can increase the extraction rates and ultimate recovery of hydrocarbons.

Proponents of fracking point to the economic benefits from formerly inaccessible hydrocarbons. Opponents point to potential environmental and health impacts, including the chemical composition of fraking fluid, contamination of ground and surface waters, the large water footprint, risks to air quality, leakage of fracking fluid and methane from wells – especially as they age, surface spills, and challenges with wastewater decontamination and disposal. The chemical composition of fracking fluid is proprietary information, and companies are not required to disclose the chemical ingredients.

Toronto-based Shoal Point Energy, and Black Spruce Exploration – a subsidiary of Toronto-based Foothills Capital Corp., are applying to do exploration drilling and fracking at a number of locations on the west coast of Newfoundland, including: Sally’s Cove (an enclave in Gros Morne National Park and UNSECO World Heritage Site), Lark Harbour (Bay of Islands) and Shoal Point (Port au Port). A number of other locations of interest are Parsons Pond, St. Paul’s, Trout River, Chimney Cove and Little Port.

This is an important issue for our region and communities.  Check us out at and