The Pennsylvania Wilds region is home to an impressive conservation stewardship legacy and a history of innovation that have literally served the world – including the Piper Cub airplane to powdered metal, Zippo lighters to Straub beer. 

This distinct region wasn’t always known as the PA Wilds. In 2003, state and local partners began working together to establish this rural 13-county region as a premier outdoor recreation destination under a new brand, the PA Wilds. The influx of visitor dollars could help grow local businesses and diversify the region’s economy, improve quality of life, inspire stewardship, attract investment, and help retain the region’s population.

The focus on sustainable economic development for this portion of rural Pennsylvania was emphasized due to decades of unfortunate trends impacting the region, including industry contraction, population decline, outmigration of young and working-age people, and higher-than-average unemployment and poverty ratings.


The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania invested early on in studying the potential economic impact of elevating nature-based tourism in the region and developing the recognizable brand. Meanwhile, local stakeholders stood up their own efforts to sustain the strategy. Regional tourist promotion agencies and stakeholders worked together on marketing initiatives and rural business development initiatives were implemented. 

One of the groups that formed was the PA Wilds Planning Team (PWPT), memorialized in a groundbreaking intergovernmental cooperative agreement in 2006, which brought together the region’s county planning offices to look at regional planning issues and opportunities. 

In 2013, the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, Inc. was founded to help spearhead the partnership work around the PA Wilds regional strategy. Today, PA Wilds Center serves as the primary convener for the PA Wilds regional strategy, working closely with state and regional partners and local stakeholders.