BRAZIL – Last week, the USDA Forest Service, U.S. Agency for International Development and Colorado State University worked together to support the National Association for Interpretation’s annual conference in Brazil, which hosted participants from 10 countries. USAID provided funding to support the conference through the Partnership for the Conservation of Amazon Biodiversity. The annual NAI conference brings together organizations working with protected areas, zoos, botanical gardens, museums, travel agencies and hotels along with individuals including local community members, guides, volunteers, teachers and protected areas managers. From the USDA Forest Service, Toby Bloom, program manager for Tourism and Interpretive Services, and Bonnie Lippitt, program manager for regional Tourism, Interpretation and Visitor Services, brought experiences from the U.S. to the conference, participating as speakers.
Through their presentations and informal engagements, Toby and Bonnie shared how the Forest Service connects the work that the agency does locally with similar issues and efforts across the globe. Toby delivered a keynote address on interpretation, while Bonnie brought expertise on demonstration sites as tools for implementation and capacity development.
The USDA Forest Service and the government of Brazil have worked for over seven years building capacity for recreation and interpretation in Brazil’s national forests and parks. The USDA Forest Service has provided technical expertise and helped the government of Brazil create guidelines for developing an interpretive plan and products. As a result, 14 courses have been conducted, resulting in the training of 305 guides across eight Brazilian States.
Of the conference experience, Bonnie said, “Our Brazilian counterparts were proud to co-host this conference to present the work they have accomplished and receive the recognition of professionals from other countries … It was an amazing validation of the effort we have undertaken together to build public use and interpretive capacity for Brazil’s protected areas.” Toby likewise added, “It was an amazing opportunity not only to learn about interpretation and protected areas in Brazil, but to take an active part in fortifying the Brazilians’ network and the work they do. You could see connections being made and networks being developed between government, non-profit, and private sector entities, with commitments to work together on common issues moving forward.”