Connecting people, nature, and culture through regional conservation alliances

Natural Neighbors 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 conservation alliances

The dinosaur gallery in London's Natural History Museum on a spring holiday; the museum receives over six million visits each year. [Photo: Ted Trzyna]

Natural Neighbors includes an international initiative and a pilot project in Southern California.

It promotes 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. People need to spend time in nature for their own health and wellbeing, beginning in early childhood. Also: They are much more likely to support conservation everywhere when they appreciate nature and culture where they live.  

The movement to bring nature and culture together. 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.  

Natural Neighbors originated in a project initiated and carried out by InterEnvironment Institute and sponsored by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), the State of California - Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, and others.

First steps: A pilot project in metropolitan Los Angeles with 20 agencies and institutions. A planning effort in Kingston, Jamaica. Discussions in Chicago, New York City, and Arizona. Interest in Israel, Brazil, and other countries.   


Thaddeus C. (Ted) Trzyna, Ph.D. 

President, InterEnvironment Institute

P.O. Box 99, Claremont, California 91711, USA

Please use e-mail: Ted_Trzyna [at]


IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas

IUCN Species Survival Commission

The Riverwalk along the Bronx River at New York City's Bronx Zoo, which has signs identifying plants, mammals, and birds, is an example of how natural history museums and similar institutions can introduce their visitors to nature in their localities and regions. [TT]


In Los Angeles, the Anthony C. Beilenson Interagency Visitor Center at the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area  is a LEED Platinum and energy "net-zero" building. Such park visitor centers offer opportunities to inform their visitors about museums, zoos, aquariums, botanic gardens, and science centers in their metropolitan areas. [National Park Service] 

Copyright © 2017 InterEnvironment Institute. All rights reserved. Natural Neighbors[SM] is a protected service mark; USPTO registration pending.  See Copyright and caveats.   

Unlike many such institutions these days, the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Garden in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, has a bookshop that stocks a good selection of field guides and other books about nature in its region.[TT]

Some museums of cities or regions include exhibits on natural history. This is the entrance to "The Natural Environment," one of the eight main galleries of the Hong Kong Museum of History; it has exhibits on local geology, flora, and fauna. [HKMH]