Gros Morne National Park
Situated on the west coast of the island of Newfoundland, the park provides a rare example of the process of continental drift, where deep ocean crust and the rocks of the earth's mantle lie exposed. More recent glacial action has resulted in some spectacular scenery, with coastal lowland, alpine plateau, fjords, glacial valleys, sheer cliffs, waterfalls and many pristine lakes.
2017 Conservation Outlook
Current state and trend of VALUES
Overall PROTECTION and MANAGEMENT
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Description of values
An area of exceptional natural beauty
An internationally significant illustration of the process of continental drift
• In glacier-scoured highlands and spectacular fjords, glaciation has made visible the park’s many geological features. There are classic, textbook examples of monumental earth-building and modifying forces that are unique in terms of their clarity, expression, and ease of access.
• The area is geologically diverse with areas of Ordovician sedimentary rocks, Precambrian granite and gneiss, Palaeozoic serpentinized ultra-basic rocks, gabbros, volcanic and Lower Palaeozoic sedimentary rocks, exposed oceanic crust, mantle, a section of ancient Mohorovicic Discontinuity, and other distinctive geological features
(World Heritage Committee, 2015; Parks Canada, 2009).
These support 36 distinct vegetation types and communities, with vascular species and bryophytes, representing about 60% of Newfoundland's insular flora, including approximately 100 species considered rare on the Island of Newfoundland. Faunal diversity resembles an oceanic rather than continental-shelf island and is markedly reduced compared with the mainland). Arctic hare, woodland caribou, and Newfoundland marten are three mammal species of particular interest in the park. Gros Morne is a significant breeding site for harlequin duck, blackpoll warbler, common tern and arctic tern, a nesting site for bald eagle, rock ptarmigan and American tree sparrow, and a stopover for migrating shore birds. Anadromous Atlantic salmon and arctic char are found in park waters and also in permanent freshwater form in certain landlocked lakes on the Long Range Mountains. (IUCN, 1987; Parks Canada, 2009)
There remains serious concern about the impact of hyperabundant moose on forest health. After seven years, the moose management program has reduced moose densities to near the threshold identified for a healthy balsam fir forest ecosystem, and vegetation is showing some early signs of recovery, however the overall status of the forest remains poor.
Snowmobiling in the park has likely increased beyond limits set out in the park’s snowmobile management plan, although the monitoring system is inadequate to track numbers definitively Arctic hare populations in the area have declined significantly, which is a cause for concern.
While forest harvesting around the park has declined in recent years, and deferrals have been put in place to the northeast of the park, a new major hydro-electric transmission corridor will further fragment ecosystems to the north and east of the park.
Changes in extent and duration of ice cover and in frost-free season due to climate change could affect the site’s ecosystems, and coastal erosion could impact its geological features.
A 2013 proposal to drill within an enclave community surrounded by the park did not go ahead because the province announced an operational “pause” on any exploration involving hydraulic fracturing in late 2014, and the offshore regulatory authority did not renew the company’s exploration license. While this “pause” on hydraulic fracturing remains in place, there is no assurance it will be maintained in the long-term, nor does it apply to conventional oil and gas exploration.
There are active exploration licenses south of the park (Lark Harbour in the Bay of Islands area), and about 80km offshore (the Old Harry prospect).
Preliminary research shows that currents in the Gulf of St. Lawrence could transport spills from these projects to the park (Bourgault et al, 2014).
While there is currently no opportunity to bid for licenses offshore directly adjacent to Gros Morne, there is no mechanism in place to prevent the bid system from re-opening this area in the future.
Petroleum industry activity along the Gros Morne coastline would compromise the integrity of the property’s outstanding natural beauty, while potential oil spills associated with exploration and development could damage the natural beauty and harm marine and coastal biodiversity.
Erosion from extreme weather events could impact coastal geological features.
In 2014 the Committee acknowledged the province’s announcement of a moratorium on petroleum development using hydraulic fracturing, but noted that this did not provide long-term security for the site. They requested that Canada complete a strategic environmental assessment of the impacts of petroleum development on the OUV of the property, and establish a buffer zone around the property before a moratorium was lifted.
In 2016 the Committee issued a follow up decision noting that the 2014 recommendations had not been implemented, and disagreeing with Canada’s assessment that existing legislation and regulations provide adequate long-term protection for the property. The Committee reiterated its recommendation that a strategic environmental assessment be completed, and that a buffer zone and wider protection measures be put in place before the moratorium on hydraulic fracturing is lifted.
To date, these recommendations have not been implemented.
The “moratorium” referred to by the Committee is not a legal or long-term measure, but rather a ”pause” put in place as an operational decision of the Province’s Department of Natural Resources. This decision only applies to petroleum exploration using hydraulic fracturing, not to conventional oil and gas development. (NLHFRP, 2016)
In June 2016, a Panel examining hydraulic fracturing in Newfoundland and Labrador recommended that the operational “pause” on issuing licenses for petroleum exploration using hydraulic fracturing be continued. They also recommended that a buffer zone be created around Gros Morne National Park, citing overwhelming public support for the idea based on public opinion polling (NLHFRP, 2016). To date the provincial government has not responded formally to these recommendations.
The park incorporates some “green” and sustainable techniques into its operations (solar powered fans, biological waste processing for washrooms, efficient heating and cooling systems, etc.).
Many visitors interact with commercial and other non-Parks Canada staff through tour boats, the Bonne Bay Marine Station and other venues in and around the park.
|№||Organization/ individuals||Project duration||Brief description of Active Projects|
|1||Parks Canada||Moose management program|
|2||Parks Canada||Piping plover nest site protection|
|Beaver colony monitoring (periodic)|
|4||Parks Canada||Resident winter bird monitoring|
||Brook trout thermal habitat assessment|
|6||Parks Canada||To: 2016||Snowbed monitoring|
|1||Bourgualt, D., Cyr, F., Dumont, D. and Carter, A. (2014) Numerical stimulations of the spread of floating passive tracer released at Old Harry. Environmental Research Letters 9(5). http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/9/5/054…|
|2||Burzynski, M, Knight T, Gerrow S, Hoffman J, Thompson R, Deering P, Major D, Taylor S, Wentzell C, and Simpson A. (2005) State of the Park Report Gros Morne National Park of Canada; an Assessment of Ecological Integrity. Parks Canada, GMNP. 21 pp.|
|3||Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (2014) Provincial Sustainable Forest Management Strategy, 2014-2014. <http://www.faa.gov.nl.ca/publications/pdf/psfms_14_24.pdf>.|
|4||IUCN (1987) World Heritage Nomination - IUCN Technical Evaluation, Gros Morne National Park (Canada). Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. <http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/419/documents/>.|
|5||NLHFRP (2016) Unconventional Opportunities and Challenges: Results of the public review of the implications of hydraulic fracturing operations in Western Newfoundland. Newfoundland and Labrador Hydraulic Fracturing Review Panel <http://nlhfrp.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Final-Report-Ju…;.|
Nalcor Energy [website] Muskrat Falls Project Overview. <https://muskratfalls.nalcorenergy.com/project-overview/>.
|7||Parks Canada (2005) Public and Commercial Snowmobile Working Group, Gros Morne National Park, Management Plan. 12 pp.|
|8||Parks Canada (2009) Gros Morne National Park of Canada Management Plan. <http://publications.gc.ca/site/eng/473574/publication.html&…;.|
|9||Parks Canada. 2017. Information Centre for Ecosystems (ICE)|
|10||UNESCO (2016) Report on the State of Conservation of Gros Morne National Park. State of Conservation Information System of the World Heritage Centre. <http://whc.unesco.org/en/soc/3471>.|
|11||World Heritage Committee (2015) Decision 39 COM 8E Gros Morne National Park (Canada) Retrospective Statement of Outstanding Universal Value. Bonn, Germany. <http://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/6407>.|
|12||World Heritage Committee (2016) Decision 40 COM 7B.94. Gros Morne National Park (Canada). Istanbul, Turkey. <http://whc.unesco.org/en/decisions/6779>.|