Helping Make Science Possible in the NPS: Nature Fund for National Parks

Nature Fund for National Parks President of the Board, Chris Shaver.
Shaver is an environmental lawyer by training and has also worked for the Environmental Defense Fund.

Photo courtesy of Chris Shaver.

For more than a century, National Park Service (NPS) partnerships have been at the heart of many of the country’s most awe-inspiring national parks.

Often, these partnerships, or friends groups, form organically, through a community’s love of a nearby park and a shared mission in supporting that special place. Other groups are advocates for further aspects of the NPS mission. When long-time NPS employee, Chris Shaver, hung up her arrowhead in 2010, a unique opportunity presented itself.

Forming a Friends Group

“Several senior managers retired about the same time I did. With encouragement and support from the [Natural Resource Stewardship and Science Directorate] (NRSS), we began exploring the idea of creating a friends group focused on natural resources,” said Shaver. “We understood the importance of science as a foundation for management decisions, and we knew that funding was woefully inadequate. We saw a void, and it made sense to fill that.”

What they could fill that “void” with was something distinctive for an NPS partnership: the only one of its kind devoted to supporting scientific studies and development of management tools to assist parks at a national level.

“We wanted to help natural resource management programs across the country, rather than just at one park,” she said.

Thus, in 2012, the Nature Fund for National Parks was incorporated. With the mission to support science and resource management, the group agreed on three objectives:

  • Increase awareness of the role of science in national parks,
  • Raise funds for projects, and
  • Facilitate partnerships.

In 2013, the Nature Fund became an official partner of the NPS. A year later, Nature Fund received its official status as a 501(c)(3) non-profit with Shaver as the president of the board of directors. To help assist with initial startup, the National Park Foundation provided a small grant.

“It was an arduous, sometimes frustrating process, but we remained committed,” Shaver said.

Chris Shaver and another Nature Fund for National Parks member smiling at from inside their booth, their friends group name across the top of it
Chris Shaver and another member of the Nature Fund for National Parks, Carol Aten, at the 2016 National Parks BioBlitz, in Washington D.C.

NPS Photo/S. Sparhawk

A Mission of Caring

Since then, the group has supported the NPS in several endeavors, including applying for numerous grants from foundations, soliciting corporate donations of monitoring equipment, and sponsoring a booth on science careers in the NPS at the 2016 National Parks BioBlitz in Washington, D.C.

“Competition for philanthropic dollars is very fierce right now. The NPS’ science priorities often don’t jive with the rather specific interests of foundations and major donors,” Shaver said.

In addition, Nature Fund has no dedicated staff or operational funding. “As an all-volunteer ‘working’ Board, our capacity is limited,” Shaver said, “but we are eager to find ways to support NRSS that don’t require significant fundraising. A partnership is a synergistic relationship,” she said. “NPS communicates priorities and needs, and we explore opportunities for promoting the science and resource stewardship agenda.”


What matters most to Shaver and the Nature Fund for National Parks is that NPS scientists in NRSS and across the country know that “you’ve got friends who really do value the work you do.”

For more information on the Nature Fund for National Parks or to collaborate, visit their website.

Last updated: March 20, 2018