Love thy National Park

I grew up in a small town in BC. For the majority of my childhood I lived in town. Then, my parents decided to move to a more rural area. Within a 10-minute move, my surroundings changed drastically. Instead of surrounded by other houses, manicured lawns and streetlights I was surrounded by sagebrush, hills, and yupp you guessed it wildlife!


Deer, garter snakes, black bears and endangered species like pacific rattlesnake (EEK), Flammulated owl also called the land around me home. I guess you could say they were my neighbours.


426          My deer friend

Love thy neighbour

The golden rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” suggests my animal neighbours and I co-exist peacefully. I’d say we do a pretty good job of respecting each other’s space. But I do wonder, if my neighbours would be better off if the proposed National Park Reserve in Oliver goes ahead.

Why a National Park?

As Parks Canada puts it, National parks protect the habitats, wildlife and ecosystem diversity representative of – and sometime unique to – the natural regions. Similar to environmental education, visiting these wild places increases individuals understanding and appreciation for natural ecosystems. However, unlike environmental education they offer a degree of protection to the ecosystems, as the natural areas are protected under federal legislation.

What I find most interesting is the degree of collaboration required to successfully protect the diversity in these wild places. Neighbouring landowners, businesses, local residents, visitors and governments all can influence the parks ecosystems with their actions.

Where there are actions, there is social marketing.

Marketing National Parks

When people think of marketing national parks, their first thought is probably encouraging people to visit them. You, being mindful of social marketing, might have jumped to an anti-littering or a leave no trace campaign. But you also might have realized it can be so much bigger than that.

National Parks are a part of a system, with numerous stakeholders, each with their own needs and barriers. One campaign cannot possibly address everything.  Instead, social marketing campaigns should embrace the 10 Rules: targeting a specific behaviour and audience and ensuring that it is having a net-positive impact on the broader system. If each campaign considers the broader system, negative spillover can be avoided and positive spillover can be maximized.

Let’s look at the example of waste management within the National Park System. At one time, numerous social marketing campaigns may be occurring.

For instance:

  • There may be signage in the park to prompt visitors to carry out what is carried in (in other words to take their garbage with them).
  • A neighbouring landowner may use a rebate to purchase a composter.
  • A neighbouring landowner may use a rebate to purchase a composter but only uses it for yard waste as he also wants to discourage bears from showing up unannounced.

The differences in audience and behavior suggest that multiple campaigns are going on. But how many campaigns impact the National Park system? I’d guess 3. The neighbours both used a rebate to purchase a composter; however, one of them took an additional step to avoid negative spillover.

Have you seen other social marketing campaigns in and around National Parks? Share in the comments field or tweet me @ictrlshift.



Get Bear Smart Society 

Leave no trace

Parks Canada: National Parks Introduction

Protected Areas Framework Okanagan


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