The Natural Neighbors initiative seeks to introduce greatly increased numbers of people to the natural and cultural heritage of the regions where they live, by promoting and strengthening metropolitan and regional alliances of conservation and historic preservation agencies, museums, zoos, aquariums, botanic gardens, and other organizations devoted to protecting and interpreting their regions' natural and cultural heritage. It encourages:

  • Museums to direct visitors to natural areas and historic sites nearby
  • Museums to create more and better museum exhibits about their regions' nature and history
  • Conservation areas and historic sites to direct visitors to nearby museums
  • Museums and visitor centers to carry a good selection of guides to regional natural and human history  
  • Cooperation in engaging with the underserved
  • Exhibits and activities that link nature, history, literature, and the arts
  • Cooperation with schools and universities
  • Exhibits and activities about nature conservation, historic preservation, climate change, and benefits of contact with nature and outdoor exercise 

Natural Neighbors brings together three powerful ideas:
►Getting people out into nature. There are two main reasons: People need to spend time in nature for their own health and wellbeing, beginning in early childhood. And they are much more likely to support conservation everywhere when they appreciate nature and culture where they live.  
►The movement to bring together efforts to preserve and interpret nature and culture. People are more likely to have a sense of belonging and of civic responsibility when they appreciate their region’s history and culture, as well as its natural environment.
►Metropolitan conservation alliances. The best-known example is Chicago Wilderness, a coalition of some 200 organizations in parts of four states. Still uncommon, such alliances promote cooperation among conservation agencies, natural history museums, science centers, zoos, aquariums, and botanic gardens.  

At this stage, Natural Neighbors is a concept and a means of exchanging information and ideas, rather than a formal program. In Los Angeles, meetings and a workshop have been held with 20 agencies and institutions. Meetings have also been held in Chicago, New York City, Arizona, and Kingston,  Jamaica, and there have been preliminary discussions in Brazil and Israel. In addition, Natural Neighbors was discussed at a workshop held at the 2016 IUCN World Conservation Congress in Honolulu, Hawai'i.

These discussions identified a need for members of regional coalitions to formulate and agree upon common messages to the public. This, in turn, led to a project on Spirit of Place.   

Natural Neighbors is an initiative of InterEnvironment Institute, in cooperation with two components of IUCN, the International Union for Conservation of Nature: the World Commission on Protected Areas and the Species Survival Commission. It originated in a project initiated and carried out by the Institute and sponsored by IUCN, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (part of the California Natural Resources Agency), the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, and others.

For more details, see the background paper:

Ted Trzyna, President, InterEnvironment Institute, P.O. Box 99, Claremont, California 91711, USA
Please use e-mail: Ted_Trzyna [at]

Copyright © 2019 InterEnvironment Institute. All rights reserved. Natural Neighbors[SM] is protected as a  Service Mark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. See Copyright and caveats.   

Melbourne, Australia: "Fighting Extinction" is the slogan of Zoos Victoria, which includes the Melbourne Zoo. 

Natural Neighbors

Connecting people, nature, and culture through regional conservation alliances

Los Angeles, California, USA: The Anthony C. Beilenson Santa Monica Mountains Interagency Visitor Center. Such facilities in natural protected areas are able to direct visitors to nearby museums to learn about local species and ecosystems.  

London, United Kingdom: The Natural History Museum on a busy weekend. Globally, hundreds of millions of people visit such institutions each year.

Cape Town, South Africa: Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden, devoted entirely to plants native to South Africa, hosts many school groups.

Hong Kong SAR, China: The first of seven galleries in the Hong Kong Museum of History features the city's natural environment, an example of portraying natural and cultural heritage together.