Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

UNESCO can swing both ways

  • Print

Last week, much was made of a decision by UNESCO to name Red Bay in Labrador a World Heritage Site. The decision was based on the significance of the site's role as a Basque whaling station in the 16th century, and it means Red Bay joins Gros Morne and L'Anse aux Meadows as the only three sites in the province. It's a feather in the community's cap and an opportunity: It puts the community on the map and could create significant tourism benefits for the town of 200.

Peter Kent, the minister responsible for Parks Canada, said in a news release the "international designation indicates that the site's cultural characteristics are so exceptional, they deserve to be protected for the benefit of all humanity."

But governments are not always successful at maintaining that protection. This province's government had an extensive inventory of provincial parks and scenic sites -- until cost got in the way, and many were privatized during the tight financial times during the administration of Clyde Wells. Many of those privatized sites are now afterthoughts rather than highlights of this province's beauty.

Other sites, such as an area of alpine plants in the Hawke Hills -- the most southerly and easterly location for such vegetation -- became natural reserves administered by the province. But businesses found other values for the high elevation.

According to the province's web page on the site, "As early as the 1970s, a site just north of the current reserve was identified for protection under the International Biological Program. Before a reserve was created, some of the plant life there was destroyed by the construction of a microwave network and associated maintenance roads. This further emphasized the need for a reserve to protect a portion of this unique ecosystem."

Other provincial ecological sites, including one that has plants so rare they exist nowhere else in the world, have been threatened, at times, by industries such as quarrying.

Even national parks aren't without their threats. Not that long ago, plans to route Muskrat Falls transmission lines through Gros Morne National Park had UNESCO reconsidering the park's status as a World Heritage Site. Then-premier Danny Williams later backed down from the transmission route plan, saying the power transmission corridor would take a more remote and expensive route over the Long Range Mountains.

The current debate over whether to allow slickwater fracking in oil exploration in the Gros Morne area is once again raising questions, and UNESCO is once again monitoring the situation.

"Very clearly this is an issue of concern to us," Guy Debonnet, the UNESCO unit chief for North American heritage sites, told the CBC. "There is a possibility of de-listing the site from the world heritage list. Of course, we are not talking about this issue for the moment."

The bottom line is that creating a reserve is a good beginning, but only a beginning. The resolve has to go much farther and last much longer.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 29, 2013 A9

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


The Whiteboard - Jets' successful forecheck

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • JOE BRYKSA/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Local- A large osprey lands in it's nest in a hydro pole on Hyw 59  near the Hillside Beach turnoff turn off. Osprey a large narrow winged hawk which can have a wingspan of over 54 inches are making a incredible recovery since pesticide use of the 1950's and  1960's- For the last two decades these fish hawks have been reappearing in the Lake Winnipeg area- Aug 03, 2005
  • Two Canadian geese perch themselves for a perfect view looking at the surroundings from the top of a railway bridge near Lombard Ave and Waterfront Drive in downtown Winnipeg- Standup photo- May 01, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)

View More Gallery Photos


Do you plan on attending the Winnipeg Folk Festival this year?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google