The North American Committee on Cooperation for Wilderness and Protected Areas Conservation is a collaborative initiative that fosters the exchange of ideas, experiences, best practices, and innovative solutions on shared conservation opportunities at the North American continental scale and across multiple agencies and jurisdictions. NAWPA was established in November 2009 via a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) (English; French; Spanish) signed by seven Leaders of North American government agencies at WILD9, the 9th World Wilderness Congress (WWC), in Mérida, State of Yucatán, Mexico.
In 2011, the Heads of the participating agencies clarified that the intent of the MOU was to cover cooperation regarding all types of protected areas (including wilderness and non-wilderness areas) under the jurisdiction of these agencies.
NAWPA member agencies recognize that protected areas and wilderness play a critical role in conserving biodiversity and supporting human health and well-being. They provide recreation, education, and research opportunities and support the economy by providing resource benefits, ecosystem services, tourism destinations, and ecological resilience.
Member and partner agencies promote sound management for protected areas and wilderness through:
- conservation and restoration efforts
- public outreach, youth engagement, and education initiatives
- recreation and visitor enjoyment opportunities
- capacity-building activities.
NAWPA priorities and overall direction of activities to advance the objectives identified in the MOU are identified by the Agency Heads (Executive Committee). A Steering Committee coordinates, directs and monitors the progress of cooperative activities undertaken in accordance to directions given by the Executive Committee. Task Groups are established by the Steering Committee to realize specific projects, and not as permanent structures. The Committee Chair rotates periodically among the agencies.
The Executive Committee meets annually in-person and virtually as requested by NAWPA Chair. Below is a list of annual in-person meetings:
- Saguaro National Park, USA, October 2022
- Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada, January 2017
- La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico, December 2015
- Las Cienegas National Conservation Area, USA, December 2014
- Okefoenokee National Wildlife Refuge, USA, December 2013
- Washington D.C., USA, March 2013
- Washington, D.C., USA, April 2012
- Key Largo, Florida, USA, November 2011
- Banff National Park, Canada, May 2011
The Steering Committee meets virtually throughout the year at the request of the Chair of the Steering Committee and once in-person. Below is the list of annual in-person meetings:
- Shepherdstown, West Virginia, USA, May 2023
- Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada, June 2017
- Tepotlzán, Morelos, Mexico, June 2016
- San Juan Islands National Monument, USA, May 2015
- Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, New Jersey, USA, May 2014
- Arlington, Virginia, USA, June 2013
- Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, May 2012
- Oaxaca, Mexico, May 2011
- Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, May 2010
NAWPA Committee Chair
Charles F. “Chuck” Sams III, Director, National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior
Former NAWPA Committee Chairs:
- Daniel Watson, Chief Executive Officer, Parks Canada Agency, 2016-2018
- Alejandro del Mazo Maza, National Commissioner, Mexican National Commission of Natural Protected Areas, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, 2015-2016
- Neil Kornze, Director, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of Interior, 2014-2015
- Daniel M. Ashe, Director, Fish & Wildlife Service, U.S. Department of Interior, 2013-2014
- Thomas L. Tidwell, Chief, Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2012-2013
- Jonathan B. Jarvis, Director, National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior, 2011-2012
- Alan Latourelle, Chief Executive Officer, Parks Canada Agency, 2010-2011
- Ernesto Enkerlin, National Commissioner, Mexican National Commission of Natural Protected Areas, Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, 2009-2010