The History of the WEA

Internationally recognized for his pioneering role in the development of wilderness education, Paul K. Petzoldt was the impetus behind the founding of the WEA along with Dr. Frank Lupton, Robert Christie and Charles Gregory, all leaders in their own right. These individuals shared a common vision concerning the development of outdoor leadership and the role of education in the preservation of this country’s wild land areas. Convinced that the survival of the American Wilderness and the safety of those seeking to enjoy it would require a massive educational effort, WEA founders envisioned a network of decentralized Affiliates teaching from a standard program, as rich in environmental decency as it was in leadership.

In 1977, born from this vision was the Wilderness Education Association, designed to train leaders with the judgment and decision-making skills to safely lead and teach the public in the appropriate use of wilderness areas. A curriculum known as the 18-point curriculum was developed to meet these goals and was designed to be used in the different courses offered by WEA Affiliates.

In 2008, the WEA developed a three-year Strategic Plan that would take the association on a journey to re-craft its mission and vision and update operations of the association. The historical 18 point curriculum was revised for the first time in 30 years and was reformatted as an educational component-based model. 2009 marked the beginning of the association’s transition from being a course provider to an accrediting body and instituting the International Registry of Outdoor Leaders.

We encourage you to join the WEA as we strive to continue the vision of our founders and maintain a tradition of excellence that began with the four men that shared a vision of change.

A comprehensive history of the WEA is being developed. If you have any documents, general information, media, or would like to share any personal accounts of events regarding the history of the WEA, please contact the WEA National Office

WEA Mission

The mission of the Wilderness Education Association is to promote and support the professionalism of outdoor education and leadership by establishing standards through curriculum design, implementation, advocacy, and research-driven initiatives.

WEA Vision

WEA will be the influential body in the professionalization of Outdoor Educators and Leaders by establishing strategic alliances with key stakeholders to create curriculum standards, and maintain a database for professionals to be vetted and recognized.

WEA Objectives

  • Increase membership and member retention.
  • Promote accreditation through organization recruitment and development.
  • Increase the visibility and credibility of the Outdoor Professional.
  • Develop sustainable research initiatives.
  • Facilitate professional development through member interaction at colloquia events.
  • Create and maintain strategic alliances with key stakeholders to promote standards.