Several NPS sites have established "sister park" relationships in the last few years with national parks in other countries. These partnerships increase information sharing and direct park-to-park contacts, primarily through the use of improved telecommunications technologies. There is no formal procedure or program within NPS for establishing sister park relationships with national parks of other countries. The NPS Office of International Affairs (OIA) has developed some informal guidelines to assist those NPS units that may be considering a sister park relationship.
- A sister park relationship should be with a protected area having some kind of designation or recognition at the national level, i.e. it is not a park managed only by a provincial or local government or a private organization.
- The normal basis for entering into a sister park relationship should either be a similarity of protected resources/ecosystems, or a mutual interest in a common set of park management issues. Whatever the common interests, they should be substantial enough to sustain a sister park relationship, and the resulting exchange activities, on an ongoing basis.
- A sister park relationship normally consists of exchanges of technical information and, if practicable, short-term personnel exchanges. Fax machines, E-mail and the Internet make electronic transfers of information very easy and relatively inexpensive. Personnel exchanges tend to be much more expensive, but may help to cultivate better staff-to-staff relationships and familiarity with each park's resources and management challenges. How a sister park relationship is pursued largely depends on the resources available to the two parks to support it.
- The scope of the technical content in a sister park relationship should be negotiated between the two parks.
- A formal written bilateral agreement is not usually required to initiate a sister park relationship. However, if a NPS unit decides to pursue a sister park relationship, it is strongly recommended that the NPS unit formalize its proposal through a letter spelling out some proposed terms and conditions and technical scope so that there will be less chance of misunderstandings.
- Concerning financing, the current NPS policy is that any commitment by a NPS unit to enter into a sister park relationship means that the unit is also committing itself to covering its costs for that relationship and its exchanges. Many NPS units have been very creative in leveraging external funds from friends groups or foundations to support their sister park relationships.
- The International Volunteer in Parks (IVIP) Program may be one way in which the NPS unit can bring staff from the sister park to the NPS unit for a training experience. For more information about the IVIP Program, contact David Krewson, the International Volunteer Coordinator at 202-354-1807, or Linda Bennett at 202-354-1806.
- In considering a sister park relationship, a NPS unit should consider the degree to which language barriers may be an impediment to the exchange program. Does the NPS unit have enough staff fluent in the native language of the prospective sister park to sustain an ongoing flow of communication, or does the proposed sister park have staff who can communicate in English?
Sister Park Guidelines in Chinese
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