Visit Bentonville and RUNWAY are thrilled to host The Wilderness Education Association (WEA), the member association that has contributed to the advancement of professionalism in outdoor leadership for 45 years. The 34th International Conference on Outdoor Leadership (ICOL) will take place in Bentonville, AR, on February 8-11, 2023. The theme for the 2023 conference is “Cultivating Innovation.” “It is an honor to host this conference in Bentonville, the Mountain Biking Capital of the World™,” said Amanda Khanga, director of sales for Visit Bentonville. “Outdoor recreation is an incredible asset to our community, and we welcome this opportunity to host outdoor leaders from throughout the world and showcase the expansive outdoor experiences our region has to offer.”
WEA Executive Director Ryan Carlson said, “The last two years tell us that the world needs recreation, wild places, and connection with others more than ever!” He continued, “We need outdoor leaders who are stewards of our land, champions of equity, and competent, inspiring educators.”
The current state of outdoor recreation has revealed:
- There are significant barriers to accessibility and access to recreation, adventure, and wild places.
- Our most loved and cherished wild places are under the massive pressure of being “loved to death.”
- Climate change remains one of the great threats to recreation.
- The Outdoor Economy is thriving. According to the OIA State of the Outdoor Market Report, the outdoor recreation economy produced a record $682 billion in economic output, 4.5 million jobs, and 1.9% of the total U.S. GDP in 2021. Which elevates the need for workforce development in the recreation industry.
Education and equipping both leaders and users to be champion stewards of our lands, safe and sustainable outdoor practitioners, and advocates of justice, equity, and accessibility in our field is critical for the advancement of outdoor professionals, practitioners, and programs as we write the next chapter in this vocation.
The WEA and this conference are committed to equipping outdoor leaders to not only be aware of these pressing issues but to have pathways for action.
The WEA is thrilled to present five culture-shaping champions in the outdoor industry, as well as 14 cutting-edge workshops that will curate this experience.
Keynotes and Special Guests & Highlights:
- Keynote: Luis Benitez Vice President of Government Affairs & Global Impact, VF Corporation
- Keynote: Erick Cedeno: https://iambicyclenomad.com/
- Keynote: Alex Bailey: Black Outside
- Keynote: Gary Vernon: Walton Family Foundation
- Special Guest: Basecamp Outdoor: Networking event and women’s leadership summit.
- Special Guest: Katherine Jeffery, PhD. Workshop: THE GEN SHIFT: A guide to help tackle the most pressing issues surrounding the largest generational shift in history.
- Special Guest: Writers Workshop: Katie Ives: Author Imaginary Peaks & Former Editor in chief at Alpinist magazine
- DEI Panel: Lesford Duncan The Greening Youth Foundation’s (GYF)
- Rachel Olzer: MC/DEI Panel All Bikes Welcome
- 28 workshops from industry professionals and technicians, advocacy experts, university researchers, faculty, and students
- Trail Run with 2018 champion of the Iditarod Trail Invitational (ITI), Pete Ripmaster
“The WEA is thrilled to meet in person for our annual conference again,” said Carlson. Wilderness education is about connecting with people, and there is nothing better than the real thing!”
The 2022 International Conference on Outdoor Leadership took place February 9-11, 2022 with nearly 300 registrants from six countries. The conference has a broad reach in the outdoor industry. Almost 100 outdoor education and recreation organizations were represented.
To learn more about the conference, visit https://weainfo.org/ICOL-2023