National Park Service of the USA. How does it work?
15 Jun — 2019
National Park Service of the USA. How does it work?

This spring the head of Development and Ecological Education Department Anastasia Barsukova together with colleagues from other Russian protected natural areas took part in Open World exchange program within National Parks and Forests group.

The Commander Islands Nature Reserve publishes Anastasia’s article, in which she shared her view on the US national parks, their work with local residents, volunteers, research institutes and NGOs.

An overview on the system of protected areas of the USA

The structure of nature protection organizations is rather (sometimes very) complex. It includes not only national parks, but also state parks (they are similar to regional nature reserves in Russia), nature and historical monuments, refuges, national forests and other forms of organizations.

Depending on its type and geographical position, protected areas may be a part of National Parks Service, Fish and Wildlife Service or neither of them. Several protected areas in one region can have unified regional governance.

Now we can make this system even more detailed by adding numerous types of cooperation. For example, a national park can have no Scientific Department. In this case, they work together with research institutes, which conduct a number of single or regular research projects on the territory of the reserve and share the results with the park.

Channel Islands feel like home

Our group included Nikolay Smirnov (Pechora-Ilychsky Nature Reserve), Irina Kirillina (Central Forest Nature Reserve), Philip Uchuvatkin (Vodlozersky National Park), Viktoria Teleganova (Ugra National Park) and facilitator Dmitry Popov.

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An arch near Anakapa Island, Channel Islands.


We had a chance to meet specialists from different national parks, including Channel Islands National Park in California. Its territory includes 5 islands in the Pacific Ocean. Some of the islands have private property on them, but the main influx consists of tourists.

Channel Islands of California are situated on the border of many northern and southern species habitats. That is why they islands are situated with life, as the Commander Islands. Here you can find Steller sea lion and some tropical fish neighboring each other. The archipelago is the only place of Earth where you can see insular foxes – a rare dwarf variety of foxes.

Tourists are important factor and the employees must take into consideration interests of every party: flora, fauna, travellers, scientists and local residents. For example, it was the reason to close access to the lighthouse, as loud sounds and unpredictable landscapes together with strong winds and frequent fogs create some dangers for the visitors.

National Network of Paths or How to Travel Through the USA by foot

Territories of national parks have different zones inside. The main policy of National Park Service is to maintain free access to public property, as it is the land of the people. However, some parts can have special protection regime, because of rare species habitats or vulnerable communities.

Some parks prohibit leaving the path. The paths are like veins connecting not only different parts of individual parks, but even different states. All touristic paths are included in the network, which was established in 1968. One of the longest paths – Discovery Path – is 11000 km long and goes through 15 states, 16 national forests, 14 national parks and more than 10 000 historical sites!

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Participants of the program with local ranger

Every tourist, who chose a path for his or her hike, can be sure that as long as the rules are followed his hike will be safe for the tourist and for nature around. Still, the rules can differ on different protected areas. Moreover, the traveller will have some visit-centers on the way and can ask for help or an excursion with ranger-interpreter.

The ranger will tell you about local flora and fauna, show some of unusual species and will surprise you with interesting facts about local history. Ranger-interpreters have a more peaceful, but as valuable rile as rangers-protectors do.

Respect and dialogue: the base of cooperation of national parks and local people.

National Park Service discovered that by closing their parks for public, they may create a generation of people, who do not know local nature and do not understand why we need to protect it. That is why every system of nature protection organization in the USA is based on mutual respect and dialogue.

Sometimes local residents have a direct dialogue with a national park authority; sometimes they use political instruments and vote for the candidate, which shares their views; sometimes they prefer to organize groups and NGOs.

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Head of Tree People organization discusses disease and contamination prevention in plant nursery.

For example, Tree People is a non-profit organization first created by a 17-year-old young man, who posted a note in local newspaper. He asked anyone willing to help to send him 10 cents for him to replace sick and dead trees in the neighborhood. People were so inspired by this idea that the initiative grew and transformed into a 50-year-old organization with a nursery of its own.

There are only several temporary stuff members. The main part of the planting and growing of local trees is done by volunteers – those same neighbors, who want to see nature around healthy, city – beautiful and breathe fresh air. They are determined in the idea, that everybody’s work is valuable and anyone can make our tomorrow better than yesterday.


Open World program operates in the framework of Point 3 of Memorandum of Understanding between the United States government and government of Russian Federation about cooperation guidelines in the fields of culture, humanitarian and social sciences, education and mass media, signed by State Secretary of the USA and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russian Federation on September 2, 1998.

Заповедная Россия English

Заповедная Россия English