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Canada should create buffer zone around Gros Morne to prevent fracking: UNESCO

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - The UNESCO World Heritage Committee is encouraging the federal government to create a permanent buffer zone to protect Gros Morne National Park from hydraulic fracturing.

The committee published recommendations about the park in western Newfoundland on Wednesday after a meeting held in Doha, Qatar.

The decision comes in response to concerns from conservation groups about the possibility that fracking for oil and gas might happen near the park.

Newfoundland and Labrador has placed a moratorium on all hydraulic fracturing applications pending a review.

Eric Hebert Daly, executive director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, says the next step is for Ottawa to act on the UNESCO recommendation and create permanent protection for the park.

Gros Morne was designated a World Heritage Site in 1987 because of its exceptional natural scenic beauty and geological features.

Hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, involves pumping water, nitrogen, sand and chemical additives at high pressure to fracture shale rock formations and allow gas or oil to flow through well bores to the surface. It's increasingly used across Canada and the United States as energy demands grow while conventional sources wane.

The prospect of drilling near Gros Morne, a spectacular hiker's paradise, set off intense debate. It also raised alarms about groundwater pollution and other risks.

It's believed Newfoundland's west coast has deep shale formations that hold oil — unlike more shallow coalbed gas deposits in western Canada and parts of the U.S.

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