A nonprofit organization whose mission is focused on serving a public land or waterway site in the United States and the improvement and responsible use of that site. This includes Friends Groups that serve more than one site, such as a regional group of parks. Whether they call themselves a Cooperating Association, a Friends Group, or simply a partner, they work in cooperation with land managers to meet the needs of the land and the local community.
While there are many nonprofit organizations that partner with public lands to bring people outdoors to recreate, learn, and explore, not all of said organizations are considered Friends Groups. NEEF defines a Friends Group as one whose mission is focused on achieving conservation purposes on a specific public land/waterway. Activities typical of a Friends Group may include (but are not limited to):
- protecting the natural habitat, water quality, and other cultural/historical aspects of a site;
- ensuring that the site is accessible for outdoor recreational use by the public, especially its surrounding community;
- hosting public events and programming that engages the community (this can include recreational activities like walking tours or festivals; educational activities like BioBlitzes or bird watching; or volunteer activities like trail maintenance or trash clean-ups).
The organization’s mission should be specific to the land/waterway and its community. If the organization’s mission is more generally focused on outdoor recreation or education on any land and not specific to that public land or group of lands, then they would likely not qualify as a Friends Group.