To promote the professionalism of the outdoor education and leadership by establishing standards through curriculum design, implementation, advocacy, and research-driven initiatives.


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


  • Increase membership and maintain member retention

  • Promote accreditation through program recruitment

  • Increase 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



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 wilderness and outdoor 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 how to get involved check out more about the Board of Directors or other Service Opportunities.