Gabe Donaldson

Manager, Colorado Fire Program, The Nature Conservancy

Gabe Donaldson has been a student of fire suppression and prescribed fire application since 2000, when he started his fire career on the Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forest. Gabe spent 10 years committed to the Ruby Mountain Hotshots out of Elko, NV as their Lead Sawyer and eventually working his way up to the position of Superintendent, overseeing daily operations of 20 firefighters on fires throughout the Western United States and Alaska. Gabe spent six years with the Boise BLM Smokejumpers between 2004-2007 and 2015-2016, where he attained specific qualifications for extended and initial attack operations, including attaining his Type 3 Incident Commander qualification (overseeing complex extended attack fire operations with as many as 600 personnel assigned to fires he has led). He is also Division Supervisor and Type 2 Burn Boss qualified, enabling him to direct fire operations on large ongoing incidents, and organizing complex prescribed fire operations. He has been a member of the Great Basin Critical Incident Stress Management Team, Co-Chair for the BLM Interagency Hotshot Crew Sub-Committee, Co-Chair for the Fire Equipment Group Sub-Committee, Type 2 Safety Officer Trainee with a Type 2 Incident Management Team and lead for the recruitment and mentoring of underrepresented individuals as the Smokejumper Developmental Advisor to the Boise Smokejumpers. Gabe attended St. John’s College in Santa Fe, NM before diving into fire full time and later received a degree equivalent from UNLV in 2012 for Ecosystem Management for Wildland Fire Professionals (0401 qualification for Federal positions). He joined the Nature Conservancy in 2016 and is currently the Fire Manager for both Colorado and Arizona, where he works closely with staff to prioritize landscape-scale forest restoration and rangeland restoration work utilizing prescribed fire. Gabe resides in Fort Collins, Colorado with his wife, Tara, three rescued pit bulls (Mari, Bubba and Daisy) and son, Teaghan. He spends his free time remodeling homes and trail running in the foothills. He is passionate about calibrating the science of prescribed fire and forest restoration with actionable work on the ground and loves to see diverse teams thrive.

Gabe is speaking at

October 10, 2019
7:30 am - 5:00 pm


  • Jolie Breeden (Tour Leader) Lead Editor and Science Communicator, Natural Hazards Center
  • Michael Kodas (Tour Leader) Freelance Author and Photojournalist
  • Mike Battaglia (Speaker) USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station
  • Peter Brown (Speaker) Director and President, Rocky Mountain Tree-Ring Research
  • Carol Dollard (Speaker) Fire Chief, Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department
  • Gabe Donaldson (Speaker) Manager, Colorado Fire Program, The Nature Conservancy
  • Chela Garcia (Speaker) Director of Conservation Programs, Hispanic Access Foundation
  • Russ Schumacher (Speaker) Colorado State Climatologist, Colorado State University
  • Chris White (Speaker) Owner, Anchor Point Group
  • George Wuerthner (Speaker) Public Lands Media


(7:30 a.m. departure, $45 fee, lunch included)

This tour is full. If you wish to be put on the waiting list, contact Kevin Beaty.

The past year has seen the biggest, the deadliest and the costliest wildfires on record. These extremes stem from numerous factors, including a warmer climate, forest management trends and more people living in harm’s way. Wildfire has gone from having something of a season, to plaguing the nation year-round, and none of these conditions are likely to change soon. Considering its broad and cascading impacts, it’s likely environmental reporters will find more than one occasion to include wildfire in their work. This tour will travel through forests and burned areas above Fort Collins to provide a comprehensive look at fire in Colorado. Participants will learn about its history, wildland firefighting, climate change and fire weather, community resilience and human behavior in fire, fire management at the local and national level, and post-fire impacts such as debris flows and invasive species encroachment. We’re going to get down and dirty in the Wildland-Urban Interface, so bring your backpacks, hiking boots and enough energy to complete an easy to mid-level hike. Total drive time: 3.5 hours. Good for those looking for some exercise. 

Advance registration is required for all Thursday tours. Attendance on each tour is strictly limited, so registering early is important. All Thursday tours will return to the Lory Student Center at about 5:00 p.m.

IMPORTANT DEPARTURE INFORMATION: Please meet your tour leaders near the SEJ registration desk on the third floor of the Lory Student Center at the listed departure time to check-in for your tour. Eat breakfast at your hotel before arrival or plan to purchase breakfast at the Lory Student Center food court, which opens at 7:00 a.m.; coffee and snacks will be provided for tours that depart before the food court opens. Each tour will leave the ballroom as a group to board buses at a nearby location. Do not be late.

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