Cooperating Associations are mission-driven
nonprofit organizations, incorporated under state law. They
operate under a signed standard agreement with the National
Park Service (NPS) to provide program and financial assistance
for interpretation, education, and research in national parks
through the production and sale of educational media to the
Cooperating Associations and the
National Park Service
Cooperating Associations are one
of the oldest and most enduring partnerships of the NPS. Beginning
in the 1920s, Park Service naturalists and historians partnered
with private citizens to form nonprofit organizations to assist
park areas and serve park visitors.
These nonprofit organizations supported
park programs and projects that were not readily achievable
through the use of federal funds and personnel. The first
of these, Yosemite Museum Association, was established in
1923 to lead a fundraising effort for a museum in Yosemite
Valley. Upon successful completion of that project, the Association
expanded its mission to support other kinds of park educational
needs, such as providing inexpensive quality guides, maps
and interpretive literature.
Today, cooperating associations are
a vital extension of the NPS’s interpretive and educational
operations. Cooperating associations help connect individuals
to the nation’s parks by selling educational and interpretive
materials, providing information services, conducting educational
programs and field institutes, and raising contributions to
support the interpertive and educational mission of the parks.
Sixty-four associations operated 1,000 outlets in 325 units
of the National Park Service in fiscal year 2004.
Many federal land management agencies,
as well as some state and local public land agencies, have
partnerships with cooperating associations (also known as
interpretive associations). After more than 80 years of collaboration
with government agencies, cooperating associations are well
established as mechanisms for providing exceptional interpretive
and visitor services.