In 1872, Yellowstone National Park was established and became America's first national park. The creation of national parks has been described as "America's best idea," and the concept has spread world-wide. Many countries now look to the United States as a leader in park and protected area management and often seek advice or collaboration with the National Park Service on issues of shared concern or interest.
Over 50 years ago, the National Park Service created its Office of International Affairs which has worked to facilitate cooperation between the U.S. National Park Service and counterpart agencies around the globe.
Our web site provides information on the mission and work of the National Park Service's Office of International Affairs and is a source of information for the public and National Park Service (NPS) staff who are interested in our international activities. We invite you to explore our web site to learn more about the unique and interesting programs the NPS is involved with throughout the world.
A New Sister Park
On April 20, Catoctin Mountain Park Superintendent Rick Slade and Germany’s Schwarzwald National Park Director Thomas Waldensphul met in the Directors Conference Room at the Main Interior Building, where they officially entered into the system’s newest sister park arrangement. The agreement promises to promote international cooperation between the parks and improve the parks’ ability to manage, conserve, and educate.
The agreement also promises a valuable exchange of best practices. While Catoctin Mountain Park has served park visitors for over 60 years, Schwarzwald--which translates to “Black Forest”--was only chartered in 2014, making Catoctin’s expertise invaluable for the nascent park. Currently, Catoctin is helping Black Forest solidify its identity and advising on ways the park can improve its visitor experience, like adding trail signs.
The partnership between Catoctin and Black Forest is helped by their similar histories. Both parks consist of secondary growth forests, a product of intensive harvesting of the older forests. From the late 1800s through the 1930s, Catoctin was laid bare as land was cleared for agricultural use and large numbers of trees were converted to coal to power the nearby Catoctin furnace. In Germany, the Black Forest was intensively harvested for a variety of purposes, including the creation of coal to support glass manufacturing and to assist in the reparations process after WWI.
Because both parks have grown out of previously deforested areas, their common issues revolve around this shared legacy. One area of cooperation the parks have already discussed is the exchange of information and technical expertise on the restoration efforts both are undertaking. To date, each park has taken a different approach to the challenge. While Catoctin has worked to restore the park’s biodiversity through managed intervention, Schwarzwald is taking a more hands-off approach, letting nature take its course.
Both parks are extremely excited about the new partnership and look forward to watching it grow over the many years ahead.