“Interpretation is an art, which combines with many arts,” said Freeman Tilden, author of Interpreting Our Heritage and a father of interpretation.

That philosophy is the essence of the draft Strategic Plan for Interpretation, which has one overriding goal: to strengthen, formalize and institutionalize interpretation within the Refuge System.

The draft plan, having gone through a six–week public review process, is now back in the hands of the Conserving the Future Interpretation and Environmental Education implementation team. The plan is expected to be finalized later this year.

Among the plan’s approaches that have gotten solid support are:

  • Develop a Refuge Ambassador Program that will train employees in providing excellent customer service. While the specifics on how to provide sustainable training are still being finalized, the broad concept that refuges need to strengthen community relations reflects the Conserving the Future philosophy.

  • Ensure that every refuge has interpretive support, whether at the refuge or from a regional office or other centers of excellence.

  • Establish by January 2015 a minimum interpretation standard for welcoming and orienting visitors, including a means to welcome people to refuges that are closed for public visitation.

  • Use a blended approach for interpretation delivery that includes kiosks and self–guided components on wildlife refuges with Web–based and mobile platforms that can reach multiple audiences.

The plan also recommends that by 2014, a “visitor services connect” online site be established to share, among other ideas, innovative and successful interpretation–through–art examples. On the site, professionals also will be able to learn about the use of emerging technologies to convey complex biological information and the concept of a land ethic in a way that will encourage people to care about the natural resources that sustain them.

“A nature guide is an interpreter of geology, botany, zoology and natural history,” said Enos Mills, a protégé of John Muir and author of Adventures of a Nature Guide. The draft interpretation strategy—soon to be coupled with an environmental education proposed strategy—is a step toward ensuring that many more Refuge System staff and volunteers can be inspirational nature guides.

To keep pace with progress by the Conserving the Future Interpretation and Environmental Education implementation teams and others, go to http://AmericasWildlife.org/.

In coming weeks, the Communications implementation team will offer its second draft strategic plan and the Hunting, Fishing and Outdoor Recreation team will put forth its first draft plan.