Whether you are a new employee or a seasoned veteran with the National Park Service, it is important to understand that international engagement is written into our mission and is vital to our success. What is the international component of our mission? Who can help you with an international program or project? How can you work internationally without leaving your site?
By the end of this page, you will be able to:
- Identify and communicate the international component of the NPS mission
- Understand the ways that the Office of International Affairs supports NPS staff
- Take action to support international collaboration at your NPS office or site
This resource will introduce you to the international component of the NPS mission and will teach you about the Office of International Affairs and what you can do to help support the international goals of the NPS.
Where Mission and Collaboration Connect
Did you know that international collaboration is part of the NPS Mission?
It is! You probably know all, or parts, of our mission statement, but take a closer look and you’ll see that it is right there, hiding in plain sight:
The National Park Service is dedicated to conserving unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Service is also responsible for managing a great variety of national and international programs designed to help extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world.
As you can see, written into the NPS Mission is a directive to extend the benefits of resource conservation and preservation internationally. Our dedication to conservation and the inspiration of future generations affects the world at large.
NPS sites are fundamentally connected with protected areas in other countries.
We live in an ever-connected world. Advancements in science and communication have proven the importance of internationally connected conservation methods. Migrant species, watersheds, water and air quality connect our parks to the larger world. Our stories and history connect us as well, and translate to the larger human experience.
Here are some examples of how our work connects to the world:
- The Earth shares air and water. Air and water quality in one part of the world impacts people in other parts of the world.
- Animals crisscross landscapes (including international borders) to survive. Collaborative ecosystem management helps species thrive.
- People share cultural connections across the globe. Our international heritage helps us to understand the past, present, and future.
- Parks help us all connect with the universals of the human experience. For example, our sites shape the stories of human migration and networks of trade and influence throughout the Americas.
- Millions of visitors from all over the world visit NPS sites each year, giving us the opportunity to engage directly to the world with our messages.
Benefits of International Collaboration
NPS and international partners benefit from each other’s expertise and experience.
We’ve all heard Wallace Stegner’s quote that our National Parks are “America’s best idea”. There is a shared pride amongst us, and throughout the nation, for the National Park Service. We naturally want to share this sentiment and assist others throughout the world to protect their nation’s heritage and natural areas too. Our engagement with other nations is a two-way street. We can learn new methods for conservation and better management strategies from the challenges faced by others across the globe. Sharing information is easier than it has ever been in human history, giving us opportunities to connect, and stay connected, with our global partners.
The Sister Park collaboration between Pantanal National Park in Brazil and Everglades National Park is a great example of parks in different nations benefitting from each other. The two parks share similar resources and face similar threats. They have worked together since the mid-1990s to develop planning resources and share information using resource comparisons for restoration work. Learn more about this collaboration.
International cooperation is part of the NPS’s global legacy.
Since the 1960s, the NPS has worked internationally to help other nations establish and maintain their protected areas. International engagement is a two-way street, and NPS staff have applied methods at NPS sites learned from our colleagues overseas.
Here are some examples of collaborative international work:
- Central America – In the 1970s, NPS staff and Peace Corps jointly assisted the Costa Rican government to establish protected area management which led to successful economic development projects through ecotourism that continue to drive the economy in Costa Rica today.
- US/Mexico Border – Nature knows no borders. More than a dozen NPS sites lie on or within walking distance of this shared boundary, across from which Mexico manages nine of its own protected areas. See how we have been working across the border to help conserve shared resources through the Southwest Border Resource Protection Program.
- Africa – In 2018, NPS staff supports capacity building for parks in Equatorial Guinea.
NPS staff are inspired by working with parks and staff around the world.
Inspiration and pride come from sharing our mission internationally, and learning about protected area management in other places. New ideas, new relationships, new challenges lead to better practices and a sense of connectedness.
Do Your Part
You don’t have to work at Glacier, Big Bend, or a World Heritage / NPS site to work internationally. Nor do you have to travel internationally to fulfill our mission. Almost every NPS site is connected to the larger world, through migration of animals, shared heritage, and even economically through international visitation to parks and gateway communities.
A great place to learn about how you can support international engagement is through the NPS Office of International Affairs (OIA). OIA helps parks and park staff find ways to work internationally even from your home park or office.
Check out these programs facilitated by the staff at OIA:
- NPS International Volunteers
- World Heritage Parks
- Sister Parks Programs
- Technical Assistance Program
There is another, crucial way you can support the international component of our mission at your NPS site. Many of our international interactions are with visitors who come from around the world to visit National Park Sites. Regardless of division or duty station, nearly all of us come in contact with our international guests. These interactions present a cross-cultural opportunity to share our mission and values, create relationships, and learn about other cultures. Take a moment to welcome our international visitors, learn where they are from, and what protected areas exist in their countries.
Within our ranks are many Returned Peace Corps Volunteers with international experience who are skilled at cross-cultural collaboration. Have a question about a certain country or culture? Need someone with specific language skills to help with translation? Check out this roster and reach out to an NPS RPCV. They are ready to help you out!
Connect with other internationally minded colleagues.
Answer one of the following in the comment section and start a conversation!
- What’s your international story?
- How can you help forward the international goals of the NPS Mission at your site?
- Who can you contact to help you and your park engage internationally?
Interested in case studies and more resources about NPS international engagement? Learn about the Office of International Affairs on the CLP.
Want to know what’s going on in protected areas around the world? The Office of International Affairs Facebook page is a great start. See how NPS staff are collaborating internationally.
Does your park have a Sister Park? Check this list of current Sister Park programs.
Want to host an International Volunteer in Park (IVIP)? Start by visiting the IVIP page!
Want to hear about the work IVIPs are doing with NPS? Read some IVIP stories.
What is International Technical Assistance and what do NPS staff do abroad? This short video from an international technical assistance trip to Guyana is a great example of what NPS staff can do overseas. Read more examples on the NPS International Cooperation page.
Curious about the US/Mexico border and shared resource protection? Check out the work that the Southwest Border Resource Protection Program is doing and how you can help.