National Park ServiceU.S. Department of the Interior
Partnership header Ranger talks with group of people sitting on grass

In the early years after the National Park Service was created in 1916, our leaders and superintendents had a mission, a handful of parks and very limited resources to get parks under management and provide memorable visitor experiences. Stephen Mather knew that building public support for a fledgling National Park System was crucial for its future. Resourcefulness and philanthropy helped grow our parks.

Fast forward to the last quarter century. Partnerships have become a way to get things done both within and beyond park boundaries. Some NPS parks and programs operate almost exclusively through partnerships. Many of the parks established in the last twenty-five years have clear mandates to partner. Heritage areas and corridors, and national trails and rivers are partnership units. Ecosystem-based resource management requires close collaboration with the array of managers and stakeholders across the ecosystem. Many solutions for park operation, transportation, visitor service and employee issues can only be found in concert with the park's gateway communities, user groups, and the tour industry. Parks are serving as learning centers and parks are going into school classrooms through curriculum and computers. We respond to fires, medevacs, search and rescues, and other emergency situations through mutual aid pacts. NPS is a key player in a Nationwide System of Parks, Historic Places, and Open Spaces Initiative, which relies heavily on partnerships across political, jurisdictional, stakeholder, and land ownership boundaries.

One constant is that we still need to build strong public support, awareness of parks, and conservation values; a strong sense of stewardship more than ever with America's changing demographics and landscape. Partnerships lead to involvement. Involvement leads to awareness. Awareness leads to action. Action leads to stewardship.

Looking across the National Park Service, we have exemplary partnerships on many levels for a wide range of program activities and functions. Based on findings from a 2001 NPS survey for OMB and by word of mouth, we know that certain parks have been especially successful in building and maintaining a strong highly productive partnership culture.

But there is much room to grow partnering capacity throughout the NPS. We also know from the 2001 survey that parks can readily identify both additional partnerships they need to initiate and grow, and the under-performing partnerships that need more attention and support by trained staff.

Partnerships are encouraged throughout the government as a way of leveraging resources and accomplishing more than anyone group could do on its own. We need to exponentially grow partnering awareness, skills and management capacity. This is only possible through highly motivated and empowered NPS employees and a supportive organizational culture.

Partnership management has become a core competency to carry out our NPS mission and deliver public service at a higher level. Our challenge is to more effectively grow that competency by building on past partnership successes and develop new capacity servicewide. Our management challenge at every level is to effectively align and leverage resources to enable NPS employees and partners to create and sustain more effective partnerships. This Website is a resource to help raise the competency and skill levels and confidence for successful partnering.

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