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Emerging Leaders Program



WTA is committed to creating systemic change by increasing entry points to the outdoor industry for communities that have had inequitable access to the outdoors, including Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) individuals. In its third year, WTA’s Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) continues to recruit a diverse cohort of individuals who want to form an inclusive community and build leadership skills to support future career interests in natural-resource stewardship and outdoor recreation. 


WTA hopes that by investing in paid development opportunities for future leaders in the outdoor industry, those leaders can build upon professional and personal aspirations while contributing to an outdoor community where people of all identities feel included and valued. Cohort members who successfully complete the program will be given advanced consideration for open seasonal and permanent positions at WTA that align with their skills and interests for up to two years.

Over the course of the 14-week program, cohort members will gain hands-on experience in the following ways:




Trail Maintenance Technical & Leadership Skills 

  • Complete trail work projects while practicing inclusive and team leadership skills at work sites across the Puget Sound region
  • Projects consist of both single-day, frontcountry events in the Puget Sound region and multi-day trips where cohort will embark on overnight camping trips together
  • Practice and increase knowledge in importance of safety in trail maintenance events, such as risk management and proper usage of tools and equipment
  • Develop group management skills on the job through rotating leadership assignments


Professional Development


  • Wilderness First Aid and CPR certification
  • Outdoor leadership skills development (snowshoeing and backpacking)
  • Resume development and career exploration within the outdoor industry, nonprofit sector and Washington State Parks
  • Cross-collaboration with other WTA departments (advocacy, communications, development and community outreach) 
  • Continuous engagement to a variety of career paths in the outdoor industry
  • Networking and engaging with community organizations and land manager agency partners


How to join the Emerging Leaders Program

This paid 14-week program is designed for early professionals who want to build upon their leadership skills and grow a career in the outdoor industry. We are currently accepting applications for the 2023 cohort. Check the career opportunities page for details on how to apply.

Stories From the Field

A group of WTA's ELP participants stand on a grassy field near the beach and smile for the camera. Photo by Zachary Toliver.Meet Our 2022 Emerging Leaders


On an overcast day in mid-January, a small group gathered at Deception Pass State Park to embark on a journey that WTA hopes will unlock opportunities for their future career endeavors.

Leina stands on trail in her hard hat with a tool in hand. Photo by Zachary Toliver.A Personal Reflection on My Experience With ELP

"I was able to find joy and reflect more critically, yet gently, about my experience as a person of color thanks to the nurturing environment the cohort members created within this program."




Bri Ross stands on a snowy trail. Photo by Zachary Toliver.A New Perspective on Recreation Ecology

While on the ELP cohort, Bri Ross witnessed the overlaps between their recreation ecology experience and how trail leaders address trail maintenance issues. 




Crew members stand at a worksite in King County with printed trail plans in hand. Photo by Britt Lê. Creating Access to Green Space in South King County

In Glendale Forest, the cohort worked on trail layout and design to bring a new green space into the North Highline neighborhood in south Puget Sound.


The inaugural Emerging Leaders Program crew pose with their tools and hard hats in front of the Puget Sound. Photo by Britt Lê.Building Space for Everyone on Trail

WTA's inaugural Emerging Leaders cohort (formerly the Leadership & Inclusion crew) found the power of on being together in community.