The town of Woody Point, population 280, is located near one of North America’s most scenic and exceptional environments: the Tablelands, part of Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland, Canada. Gros Morne is an UNESCO world heritage site. The park attracts roughly 110,000 visitors annually from outside the province and is the main economic driver for the region and its communities. 
Residents of the region fear that hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, of shale oil deposits will jeopardize the future of sustainable tourism on Newfoundland’s west coast. Several years ago companies first started to investigate the feasibility of fracking in the region, at a time when little was known about its impacts on health and environment.
Such knowledge and information gaps have since become smaller. Environmental and health reviews conducted in various provinces and states throughout Canada and the US make a clear trend visible: In the north-east alone, fracking moratoria have been proclaimed in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec, and New York State. These moratoria are based on environmental and public health reviews which point to downsides of fracking, including, but not limited to, pollution, health risks, and even negative long-term economic effects. 
As of 2013, a moratorium is also in place in Newfoundland. The provincial government does not currently accept proposals for onshore exploration using hydraulic fracturing. However, this moratorium is under review by an independent scientific panel. The panel has been criticized for various shortcomings, including lack of diversity of its members -- it does not include women, Indigenous people, or residents of the west coast. 
Raymond Cusson is concerned that panel members also lack knowledge about the importance of tourism for the Gros Morne region. Cusson is the Chair of the Gros Morne Co-Operating Association, a not-for-profit group that seeks to support the protection of Gros Morne National Park through initiatives that also strengthen the socio-economic fabric of the region. Cusson is a strong advocate for leaving oil in the ground. Instead, the Co-Op envisions alternative economic pathways for Gros Morne and its communities.
The Gros Morne Co-Op fosters what Cusson refers to as a “creative class”. The main principle of this alternative economic model consists of sustaining aging communities through the fostering of creative talent. Art and music festivals are concrete manifestations of that vision. The festivals aim at bringing creative visitors to the region and thereby build the foundation for a more permanent presence of writers, musicians, painters, and craftspeople. For example, author Lawrence Hill (“Book Of Negroes" ) made Woody Point home after attending various festivals over the years.
The vibrant cultural life, in combination with the natural beauty of the area, is expected to support an economy built on sustainable tourism. Aware that such ideas have been tried less successfully elsewhere, Cusson is convinced that the geographic location of Gros Morne is a particular advantage over places such as Toronto or Montreal: “Tourists don’t come to Gros Morne to see Disney World. They come to see a pristine environment.” Cusson points out that returns on investments in tourism related projects are high compared with other parts of Canada. “Governments want to see investments be investments, not subsidies. That is possible here.”
On a bigger scale, allowing for hydraulic fracturing would send a complicated message: “Even the pope says [fracking] is not good . Climate change the is real thing. That’s what we have to deal with, even in our small local economy. We should have changed to a different form of energy yesterday. Leave the oil in the ground on the West Coast. That will be your contribution to climate change. “
Low oil prices have done away with some of the urgency in protecting Gros Morne from fracking developments. At the moment, companies are unlikely to invest in expensive fracking endeavors. However, an upswing in prices, even if it is a few years away, seems inevitable. The province has a chance now to put alternative economic development plans in place.
Still, a lot depends on the verdict of the review panel. As long as fracking is not formally ruled out, residents of Gros Morne will have to live with the possibility of resource development complicating their plans for a sustainable regional economy. For Rayomnd Cusson and the Gros Morne Co-Op, a “go-ahead” for fracking would be surprising, to say the least: “What could the independent panel discover that has not already been discovered?”
It is precisely the seemingly redundant nature of the panel, however, that makes environmentalists concerned about what’s to come.
 This number is derived from the 2009 Gros Morne Management Plan, which states that “[o]ne quarter of the 431,600 non-resident visitors to [Newfoundland and Labrador] visited [Gros Morne]”. The plan available online at http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/nl/grosmorne/~/media/pn-np/nl/grosmorne/pdf/GM_Mgt_Plan_9-9-2009-En.ashx.
 The Nova Scotia report is accessible online at http://energy.novascotia.ca/sites/default/files/Report%20of%20the%20Nova%20Scotia%20Independent%20Panel%20on%20Hydraulic%20Fracturing.pdf. The report for New York state can be accessed at
 Bios of the panelists can be found here: http://nlhfrp.ca/panel-bios/. Hans Rollman of Newfoundland’s “The Independent” wrote on the issue here: http://theindependent.ca/2014/11/19/fracking-review-panel-independent-of-what-exactly/