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about wea

"One aspect of outdoor leadership is absolute and unquestionable:
A leader must be able to make quality decisions... based on good judgment."
Paul Petzoldt, one of the WEA founders

We believe the most effective professionals are authentic leaders with the judgment to make decisions that work: that manage risk, protect the environment, and achieve the outcomes of the experience. Today, the WEA works with our membership and our colleagues to record and refine standards of curriculum and training for outdoor leadership education, to provide curriculum and assessment for outdoor leadership training and development; and to offer credentials for leaders and educators.

The WEA offers several products to our membership and the industry:

  • A strong community that contributes to research and practitioner development;
  • A membership that establishes standards for professional certification and training;
  • The Commission on Outdoor Education and Leadership that provides external reviews for organizations in an accreditation process;
  • Several credentials for individuals including courses and certification; and
  • Professional service and development opportunities.


Advancing professionalism of outdoor leaders through standards, training, and credentialing


The Wilderness Education Association will provide standards of professionalism in the outdoor education field through strategic alliances with key stakeholders to create the respected curriculum, and to maintain a database for outdoor educators to be verified and recognized.

WEA Objectives

  • Increase membership and maintain member retention
  • Promote accreditation through program recruitment
  • Increase the visibility of outdoor professionalism
  • Establish sustainable research initiatives
  • Promote professional development opportunities through member interaction and involvement
  • Nurture strategic alliances with key stakeholders to promote standards

Annual Reports


In 1977, the Wilderness Education Association was built on the necessity to instruct leaders and provide expertise and education to the public regarding the use of wilderness and backcountry resources. Known globally for leadership and development in outdoor and wilderness education, Paul K. Petzoldt played a significant role in the foundation of the Wilderness Education Association along with influential leaders such as Dr. Frank Lupton, Robert Christie, and Charles Gregory. They each shared a similar vision for the WEA: preserve the wilderness and educate leaders to conserve the backcountry for future generations.

Over 30 years later, the Wilderness Education Association developed a three-year strategic plan to rebuild the mission and vision of the association. The original 18-point curriculum was revised for the first time and reformulated as a component-based model. In 2009, the Association transitioned from outdoor leadership training and development to accrediting member organizations and launched the International Registry of Outdoor Educators and Leaders.

Today, the WEA encourages leaders of all backgrounds and experience to join the association and continue the overarching vision of the founding leaders: a tradition of excellence and professionalism in outdoor education and leadership.

We would love to hear your personal stories and memories of early WEA courses, Paul moments, or other WEA adventures! If you have any documents, information, media, or personal accounts regarding the history of the WEA, please contact the WEA National Office.

For more information on getting involved, contact the Board of Directors or explore other Service Opportunities.

Wilderness Education Association, Inc.
151 NC Highway 9, Ste B, Box 136
Black Mountain, NC 28711

© 2021 Wilderness Education Association, Inc.

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