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Gros Morne National Park

Gros Morne National Park, proposed by Canada as a best practice, is interesting as a case study for the following aspects: commitment of local communities, mayor forums, community volunteer association, agreement for sustainability, on-going training for staff, cooperation and partnerships with tourism representatives.

Summary provided by State Party

Moving from a management culture where protection of heritage assets is “enforced” to one where stakeholders are engaged in protecting a site because they understand the values associated with it and support the management approach because they have been involved with defining it, does not and cannot happen by accident. Our job is simply too big to do without the support and help of stakeholders. By adopting an approach of inclusive engagement, and sharing responsibility for decision making, it allows for a higher level of heritage protection and increases the quality and authenticity with which the story about special places is told. By recognizing our common goals and respective strengths, together, with our communities and stakeholders, it is possible to protect our natural and cultural environments, provide a high quality of life for residents and employees, and share the significance of pride and place to visitors. Inclusion, engagement and involvement of others lie at the heart of sustainable development.

Management planning is used as the primary tool for identifying issues that have the potential to negatively affect Gros Morne National Park’s ecological integrity or OUV, and for designing the appropriate level of management response. Worthy of particular note is the number of Parks Canada /Community and Stakeholder Working Groups that successfully resolve land use and other user conflict issues, as well identify areas for mutual co-operation. This collaborative approach has become standard operating procedure in Gros Morne National Park and is the subject of this nomination. The various working groups and collaborative arrangements that have been formed balance the rights of user groups with resource protection needs and help to realize appropriate development opportunities. Gros Morne has developed a specific approach to the working group process, which can best be described as follows:

In formulating such groups, the goal of park management is always to help group members become knowledgeable, highly effective, and supportive participants in the planning processes. Where local communities are part of a particular working group, representation is first sought through the Mayors’ Forum. Typically, a neutral facilitator is hired to chair sessions so as to ensure group members understand there are no preconceived solutions to an issue beforehand. Additionally, stakeholder travel costs are supported. While different groups may address different topics, there is a constancy to approach that has emerged in the park. In their deliberations, working groups are encouraged to:

  • Recognize Gros Morne National Park as a protected heritage area and understand that maintaining its ecological integrity and outstanding universal value can call for special considerations;
  • Place protection of the resource as the first priority;
  • Use the results of scientific study to inform management direction; • Respect local knowledge; • Apply the precautionary principle where there is any doubt; and
  • Respect legally defined jurisdictions.

In conclusion, others have commented on the successful way that the Gros Morne National Park region has pursued, and will continue to pursue, sustainability. The first is offered by Australian Lorraine Edmunds: “I learned of innovative programs and policies…. I saw world-class interpretive facilities and experienced storytelling at its best. I learned of collaborative partnerships between communities, management agencies and research institutions in which cultural and natural places are protected whilst creating new economic opportunities for host communities”. The second account appeared in a 2005 edition of National Geographic Traveler Magazine. The reviewer said that part of the reason Gros Morne tied for second place was: “…I've never felt more welcome anywhere in North America,” and it is “a model of the collaborative actions of local communities and park management”

One-off Initiative for the recognition of best practices

The World Heritage Capacity Building Strategy, adopted by the World Heritage Committee in 2011, responds to the identified needs of a diverse and growing audience for capacity building for World Heritage conservation and management activities. Development of resource materials such as best practice case studies and communication tools are among the activities foreseen by the strategy to improve these capacities.

An example of an innovative capacity building initiative is the recently concluded Recognition of Best Practice in World Heritage Management. This initiative, requested by the World Heritage Committee and carried out within the framework of the 40th anniversary of the World Heritage Convention in 2012, solicited applications from World Heritage properties which had demonstrated new and creative ways of managing their sites. Twenty-three submissions were received and evaluated by a 10-member international selection committee which included the representatives of the Convention’s Advisory Bodies, ICCROM, ICOMOS and IUCN. The Historic Town of Vigan in the Philippines was chosen as a best practice achieved with relatively limited resources, a good integration of the local community in many aspects of the sustainable conservation and management of the property and with an interesting multi-faceted approach to the protection of the site.

Management practices recognized as being successful and sustainable can include everything from involving local people in site management, to creating innovative policies and regulating tourism. There are sites that include students from local schools in the management of the site (Slovenia), train local inhabitants as tour guides (Peru), or even put up nylon fences to protect villagers from straying tigers from the Sundarbans National Park (India). Sharing these practices helps other sites find solutions that work.

This initiative provides incentives for States Parties and site managers to reflect on their management practices and explore improvement possibilities.