Cooperating associations, also known as interpretive associations, support the interpretive, educational, and/or scientific programs/services of a Government agency. They must have federally tax-exempt, not-for-profit status under Section 501 (c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. BLM must have a formal assistance agreement with cooperating associations in order to exchange resources and financial support. These organization’s missions are to enhance the agency’s interpretive and educational programs. They support BLM public lands through running sales areas or producing and distributing interpretive and educational materials, such as publications, maps, postcards, photographs, posters, videos, handcrafts, and other items related to interpretive themes of the area.

Associations have evolved to serve proficiently in many additional roles, also appropriate to supplementing the BLM’s interpretive and educational programs. They assist in the production of site-specific products, distribute educational and scientific publications produced by the agency, assist in securing grant monies, assist with special events, donate materials for use in interpretive programs and exhibits, and strengthen BLM’s relationship with local communities. The benefits of working with cooperating associations are many: disseminating information about the BLM and its management responsibilities, thus helping the public better understand land management issues; through providing information and services, helping to reduce adverse impact on natural and cultural resources from misuse of public lands; developing constituencies for public lands; establish and nurturing partnerships, and providing fresh perspectives and creative resources for addressing management issues.

BLM began working with cooperating associations in 1980, when the BLM Moab District and Canyonlands Natural History Association (CNHA) signed an agreement that allowed CNHA to service the needs of public lands visitors through CNHA sales areas at BLM Offices. The Canyonlands Natural History Association provided funds for BLM projects through proceeds from sales at these areas. In 1982, the Southwest Natural and Cultural Heritage Association (SNCHA), now know as Public Lands Interpretive Association (PLIA), opened the second BLM cooperating association sales area at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Nevada. The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area became independent in 1988 – the BLM’s first site-specific cooperating association. The BLM currently works with 21 cooperating associations in all twelve western States. They are:

The BLM Handbook, H-8362-1 Working with Cooperating Associations (485KB PDF), is also available on the BLM National Web Site.

For more information on Cooperating Associations, contact: