1.         Gros Morne National Park (Canada) (N 419)

Year of inscription on the World Heritage List  1987

Criteria  (vii)(viii)

Year(s) of inscription on the List of World Heritage in Danger  N/A

Previous Committee Decisions  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/419/documents/

International Assistance

Requests approved: 0
Total amount approved: USD 0
For details, see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/419/assistance/

UNESCO Extra-budgetary Funds

N/A

Previous monitoring missions

N/A

Factors affecting the property identified in previous reports

Illustrative material  see page https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/419/

Conservation issues presented to the World Heritage Committee in 2021

On 26 November 2019, the State Party submitted a comprehensive state of conservation report, and annexes including a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of the 2019 Gros Morne National Park Management Plan, available at https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/419/documents/, and reporting as follows:

On 25 September and 13 December 2018 as well as on 3 January, 25 April, 26 June and 15 July 2019, the World Heritage Centre and the State Party exchanged on third party information expressing concerns regarding trail upgrades undertaken inside the property near Western Brook Pond. In addition, the State Party’s report notes the ongoing upgrading of three additional trails, visitor facility improvement works and road maintenance.

Analysis and Conclusions of the World Heritage Centre and IUCN

The establishment of the Federal-Provincial Land Use Committee is a welcome step to collaboratively manage the areas surrounding the property. The proposed integration of World Heritage into regional planning frameworks including individual projects is an important development that aims to address the World Heritage Committee’s previous concerns on the need for a buffer zone. The State Party’s reassurances that the “pause” on hydraulic fracturing will not be lifted until a full assessment of the Review Panel recommendations has been completed, is appreciated. The statement that even when the pause is lifted, it would be subject to stringent environmental assessment requirements, is also noted.

Nevertheless, the mandate of the Land Use Committee appears to be limited to enhancing communication and cooperation, without the authority to take decisions or influence decision-making pertaining to proposed activities including oil and gas. Whilst acknowledging the “pause” on hydraulic fracturing, this limited mandate does not allow the Committee to prevent future oil and gas licences to be issued and hence requires further strengthening in order to meet the World Heritage Committee’s request to introduce measures to prevent future oil and gas licences.

The SEA of the 2019 Management Plan states that the provincial government is yet to announce the next steps in the assessment of the Review Panel’s recommendations and the pause on hydraulic fracturing, but no additional update is provided. This would appear to be key to ensuring a common understanding of timelines and expectations in terms of adopting and implementing the Review Panel’s recommendations.

It is acknowledged that the assessment of activities within the entire Gulf of St Lawrence poses considerable challenges and the State Party’s reassurance that the OUV of the property will be considered in project-level Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) for any project proposal that may arise within the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB) jurisdiction is appreciated. Nevertheless, considering the ecological connectivity of the Gulf of St Lawrence with the property that extends beyond the jurisdictional area of C-NLOPB, it is important that activities across the Gulf be proactively monitored for potential impact on the property and management responses taken accordingly.

The State Party reported that the upgrading of the trails near Western Brook Pond were a high priority, however, the third party concerns shared with the State Party illustrate that this included significant enlargements of the infrastructure resulting in potential impacts on the property and its natural values, which should require a more detailed EIA, including a thorough stakeholder consultation process, rather than the Basic Impact Assessment that was undertaken. Noting that the project was completed in May 2019, it is important for the State Party to ensure the restoration of any damaged vegetation and landscapes. Noting that additional trails are undergoing an upgrade and road maintenance is occurring, and that it is unclear from the State Party’s report whether any of the projects have undergone any type of impact assessment, and as such, clarification should be sought from the State Party. It is recommended that the State Party is requested to re-asses the impacts of the planned upgrading on the OUV and other natural values of the property, and that the upgrading is reviewed to ensure the visitor infrastructure remains non-intrusive and blends in with the landscape of the property.

Decision Adopted: 44 COM 7B.102

The World Heritage Committee,

  1. Having examined Document WHC/21/44.COM/7B,
  2. Recalling Decision 42 COM 7B.73, adopted at its 42nd session (Manama, 2018),
  3. Welcomes the establishment of the Federal-Provincial Land Use Committee to collaboratively manage activities in and around the property, and strongly encourages the State Party to strengthen the mandate of this Committee to assign it decision-making powers pertaining to any future oil and gas licenses in the vicinity of the property;
  4. Acknowledging the continued “pause” on hydraulic fracturing outside the property, reiterates its request to the State Party to ensure that long-term, substantive measures are introduced to prevent future oil and gas licenses being awarded in the vicinity of the property, and before the “pause” on hydraulic fracturing outside the property is lifted;
  5. Also reiterates its request to the State Party to clarify when a full assessment of the Newfoundland and Labrador Hydraulic Review Panel’s recommendations will be completed, and to submit the final analyses when available to the World Heritage Centre;
  6. Also acknowledging the vast size of the Gulf of St Lawrence and its multi-jurisdictional spread, but considering the ecological connectivity of the Gulf with the property, requests the State Party to closely monitor any proposed and planned exploratory activity in the Gulf of St Lawrence that has the potential to impact on the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of the property;
  7. Notes with concern that the upgrade project of the Western Brook Pond was completed without sufficient Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) or stakeholder consultation and also requests the State Party to ensure the restoration of any damaged vegetation and landscape;
  8. Further requests the State Party to re-asses the impacts of the multiple upgrade and of the maintenance projects currently underway within the property on the OUV and other natural values of the property and to review the projects to ensure the visitor infrastructure remains non-intrusive and blends in with the landscape of the property;
  9. Further reiterates its request to the State Party to invite, if the “pause” on petroleum exploration in the vicinity of the property is discontinued, a joint World Heritage Centre/IUCN Reactive Monitoring mission to the property to assess the risks to the property’s OUV;
  10. Requests furthermore the State Party to submit to the World Heritage Centre, by 1 December 2022, an updated report on the state of conservation of the property and implementation of the above.