Creation of national parks often imposes immediate livelihood costs on local people, and tensions between park managers and local people are common. Park managers have tried different approaches to managing relationships with local people, but nearly all include efforts to promote environmental values and behaviors. These efforts have had uneven results, and there is a need to improve our understanding of how environmental values develop, change, and influence behavior. We investigated this question in a study of communities in and adjacent to national parks in Costa Rica and Honduras, using a mental and cultural model approach. We found local people to be fluent in global environmental values, but some common values had limited impact on behavior due to conflicts with livelihood needs. However, new environmental values that integrated conservation and livelihood needs had developed that had a more direct relationship to behavior. We propose a general model of how local environmental values develop in the context of global environmentalism that can be used to guide outreach programs with park neighbors.