07/14/2016 14:57 EDT | Updated 07/15/2017 01:12 EDT

UNESCO formally recommends industrial buffer around Gros Morne national park

GROS MORNE, N.L. — The UNESCO World Heritage Committee is formally recommending Canada consider an industrial buffer zone for Gros Morne National Park in western Newfoundland.

The committee issued a draft decision in May, and on Thursday the latest step by the international agency was announced in a news release from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

The committee originally called for a buffer zone in 2014 after an oil drilling and hydraulic fracturing proposal near Gros Morne set off intense public debate.

At stake is the park's world heritage status, granted in 1987 for its glacier-carved fjords, dramatic cliffs and geological features such as the Tablelands. 

The formal recommendation from the committee came during an annual meeting in Istanbul, and Canada has been asked to report back on progress by the end of 2017.

A provincial panel has also looked at the issue of fracking in western Newfoundland and recently concluded there were too many science, technology and risk-assessment gaps to approve the process.

That panel has recommended the province continue its freeze on fracking applications until major questions are answered.