Natural Areas Director

City of Fort Collins, CO | Full-time


The Community

The City of Fort Collins sits nestled against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains alongside the banks of the Cache La Poudre River. At 5,000 feet in elevation, residents enjoy a moderate, four-season climate, with an average of 300 days of sunshine per year. With 174,800 residents, Fort Collins is Colorado’s fourth-largest city and spans 57 square miles. With the 20-year growth projection, the City of Fort Collins is expected to reach 255,000 residents.

The first people who hunted in this region arrived approximately 11,000 years ago, and Northern Colorado remains an integral part of the traditional and ancestral homelands of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ute Nations. European-American trappers and traders arrived by the early 1800s but rarely established permanent settlements. Gold and silver discoveries in the Colorado mountains in the mid-1800s and the prospect of land for farming and ranching attracted people from eastern cities and across the globe to the Colorado Territory, including what would become the town of Fort Collins, an agricultural colony that emerged from its founding days as a military fort. The expansion included the sugar beet industry’s growth, which brought new residents whose descendants still live here today, including Mexican-American families from southern Colorado, New Mexico, and northern Mexico, as well as Germans from Russia.

Since 1879, Fort Collins has been the home of the state’s land grant institution, Colorado State University, which currently enrolls 34,000 students. Along with the University, the City’s major high-tech and manufacturing companies and breweries attract new residents from all over the country and world. The community’s overall social diversity continues to grow.

There are abundant outdoor recreation opportunities available to the many residents who enjoy healthy lifestyles. The nearby Horsetooth Reservoir is a key attraction, as is the Cache La Poudre-North Park Scenic Byway. The Downtown district provides many venues for live music, shopping, dining, and nightlife within the City. Fort Collins is widely considered the Craft Beer Capital of Colorado. The City has a strong appreciation for arts, culture, and entertainment. Various national organizations and magazines recognize Fort Collins as one of the best places to live in the nation.

The Organization

The City of Fort Collins is a home rule city with a Council-Manager form of government. The City Council is comprised of six District Councilmembers who are elected for four-year terms and a Mayor who is elected at-large for a two-year term. All elected officials are non-partisan. The City Council appoints the City Manager, City Attorney, and the Chief Judge. The City Manager has overall responsibility for all other City employees. The City of Fort Collins directly provides a full slate of municipal services, including operating its own electric, water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities. The City of Fort Collins, at the direction of the City Council and voters, is moving forward with building and implementing high-speed next-generation broadband to the entire community with expected completion in 2022. Fire protection is provided by the Poudre Fire Authority (PFA). The City of Fort Collins operates with a biennial budget and provides funding for municipal operations, including approximately 2,500 employees.

The City of Fort Collins aspires to provide world-class services to the community while cultivating an outstanding organizational culture for its employees. In order to achieve its vision, both internal and external services are data-informed and implemented according to organizational values. The City develops resiliency and sustainability through organization-wide systems and processes that ensure consistent employee work practices and alignment across service areas. The City places a high value on public input and strives to include community members as fellow problem solvers whenever possible. Residents can expect to receive exceptional service, have the opportunity to engage with decision-makers, provide input regarding the allocation of City resources, and have access to government information in a timely and transparent manner.

Natural Areas

The Natural Areas Department conserves valued lands and provides recreation and educational access to these community treasures. Fort Collins’ Natural Areas are integral to the community’s identity and vitality, with 52 natural areas and over 100 miles of trail encompassing more than 46,000 acres. These Natural Areas are protected for their ecological values, and provide quality of life, physical and mental health benefits, and are cherished and stewarded by residents. With a staff of over 60 and a budget of $13.5 million, the Natural Areas Department is primarily funded by two taxes (City and County) and a minimal amount of the general fund.

Fort Collins’ natural areas are a leading expression of our community’s values, hopes, and aspirations and are unique places in our neighborhoods, around our City, and throughout our region. Our Natural Areas are about ecological values, quality of life, economic health, and what matters to residents. Within our natural areas, you can see, touch, feel, and experience natural and cultural treasures.

Natural Areas is part of the larger Community Services Service Area that also includes Cultural Services, Parks, Park Planning and Development, and Recreation. As the community grows and becomes more diverse, the intentional holistic system of public spaces that spans the natural and designed, big and small, urban and not-so-urban, together bring beauty to Fort Collins and give it an intentional sense of place. The network of conserved natural areas is integral to the identity and vitality of the Fort Collins community.

The Opportunity

The Natural Areas Director provides strategic and forward-thinking leadership to the many programs and services that support Land Management and Acquisition, Resource Management, and Land Conservation. The Director develops and implements realistic goals and objectives and actively collaborates with staff to ensure alignment with the department’s mission to conserve and enhance lands with natural resources, agricultural and scenic values while providing meaningful education and appropriate recreation opportunities.

The Director is responsible for Natural Areas strategic planning and reporting and effectively leads the preparation of short-term and long-term plans. The Director develops and manages the department’s biennial budget and coordinates the development and implementation of specific, measurable outcomes associated with the City’s Budgeting for Outcomes process, City Council Work Plan, and City Manager initiatives. Reporting to the Community Services Director, the Director effectively represents the Natural Areas Department and serves as a member of the Community Services Leadership Team. In addition, the Natural Areas Director actively collaborates with the Land Conservation and Stewardship Board.

With a unified vision, collaborative style, and demonstrated commitment to employee well-being, the Natural Areas Director leads and supports a staff of passionate and talented employees. This position directly manages the Environmental Program Manager, Facility Operations Chief, Head of Rangers, Land Conservation Manager, Public Engagement Manager, Resource Management Supervisor, and the Trails and Visitor Amenities Supervisor. The Natural Areas Director partners with their leadership team to purposefully build credibility and department presence with the community.

First Year Priorities

  • Actively engage with staff and community members to appropriately balance conservation and recreation in our natural areas. Recognize the community's broad and diverse interests in our natural areas while remaining focused on the Natural Areas mission.
  • Plan and prepare for the City tax levy that expires in 2030 and the County tax levy that expires in 2043. Develop the next iteration of tax language and collaborate to gain support that allows for the continued growth of the Natural Resources portfolio.
  • Collaborate with staff and engage the community to update the Natural Areas Master Plan. Ensure the plan continues to support and appreciate the relationship between land conservation and human wellbeing. 
  • Lead discussions and formulate policy on herbicide and pesticide use while aligning with the Department’s conservation objectives and the City’s climate goals.
  • Be more strategic with our land acquisition. Intentionally look for opportunities that are contiguous and support added connectivity in our portfolio and effectively advocate for the resources that can maintain our growth.
  • Continue to grow and improve the Ranger program with additional staff, continued education, training, and an emphasis on customer service.
  • Foster a welcoming and collaborative team environment. Build trust, support employee growth and development, and further empower employees to bring fresh ideas and innovative approaches that positively impact the work of Natural Areas.
  • Spend time building relationships and partnerships throughout the broader Community Services organization. Further integrate Natural Areas and look for opportunities to collaborate and integrate programs and services across the broader portfolio.

The Successful Candidate

The Natural Areas Director is passionate about natural resources and land conservation and naturally collaborates across the organization in support of the Natural Areas mission. The ideal candidate has a thirst for laying out a big picture vision and strategic goals for Natural Areas while creating an acceptable balance between the competing demands of conservation and recreation. The Director is a strategic systems thinker with strong leadership skills necessary for managing change in support of a growing and evolving department. 

As a visionary leader, the successful candidate brings a fresh yet experienced voice and perspective to Natural Areas with a strong ability to see the interdependencies between the department and broader Community Services’ portfolio. The Natural Areas Director recognizes the importance of relationships and partnerships at all levels, values diversity of thought, and navigates political relationships with ease. With a strong learning orientation, the successful candidate collaborates and leverages all resources to continue adapting to changing issues and trends. Importantly, the Director fosters mutual respect and brings a strong desire and ability to understand the diverse needs of internal and external customers to create experiences and deliver services that exceed their expectations.

The Natural Areas Director actively nurtures an open and welcoming environment that continues to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion. The successful candidate leads and empowers staff while promoting a forward-thinking culture that embraces change and emerging natural areas practices. It is essential that the Director thoughtfully identify opportunities and implement changes that support an organizational culture built on trust and respect and effectively leverages the team’s talents to ensure Natural Areas continues to meet the community’s evolving needs.

A person of exceptional character, the Natural Areas Director offers confidence grounded in experience and effectively represents the department with integrity and advocates for Naturals Areas at all times. The Director is considered an excellent communicator and is well known for encouraging participation, welcoming input, connecting with the community, and effectively garnering public support for projects and initiatives. Hearing, balancing, and respecting a variety of views during the decision-making process while moving forward is essential.

Total Compensation

The City of Fort Collins offers a competitive comprehensive benefits package, including a market competitive salary range of $88,200 – $147,033 and an anticipated hiring range of $115,000 – $125,000. Other benefits include medical, dental, vision, wellness program, life, and short- and long-term disability insurance. Additionally, the City of Fort Collins offers other benefits, including 401(a) and a 457 deferred compensation plan with an employer contribution, optional Health Savings Account, Flexible Spending Accounts, and relocation assistance for the successful out of area finalist.


The Natural Areas Director is subject to residency requirements under the City’s Charter (Article IV, Section 3), which require the incumbent to reside at the time of appointment and throughout employment in this classification within five (5) miles of the City limits as measured by a straight line connecting the parcel of property upon which the residence is situated to the nearest boundary line of the City. City limits and the Urban Growth Area /Growth Management Area can be found on FCMaps.


The successful candidate has eight years of progressively responsible experience in Natural Areas with at least five years in a leadership role. Advanced knowledge of conservation principles is essential. A sound financial background with a strong understanding of budgets and financial management is required. Change leadership experience is highly desired. An exceptional ability to develop effective partnerships is essential, as is demonstrated cultural competence to effectively interact, work, and develop meaningful relationships with people of diverse identities, perspectives, and cultural backgrounds is required. A strong customer service mentality, unquestionable ethics and integrity, and a value set aligned with the City of Fort Collins and the Natural Areas mission are essential.

A bachelor’s degree in Natural Resources Management, Planning, Environmental Studies, Public Administration, or related field is required, with a master’s degree encouraged. An equivalent combination of experience and education that enable success as the Natural Areas Director will be considered.

Studies have shown that women and people of color are less likely to apply for jobs unless they believe they can perform every job description task. We are most interested in finding the best candidate for the job, and that candidate may come from a less traditional background. The City may consider an equivalent combination of knowledge, skills, education, and experience to meet minimum qualifications. If you are interested in applying, we encourage you to think broadly about your background and skill set for the role.

How to Apply

The City of Fort Collins is deeply committed to high-quality public service and cultivating an outstanding culture for its employees. As a high-performing government, Fort Collins attracts and employs diverse and competitive talent, retains its workforce through development and growth opportunities, and promotes intelligent risk-taking to address increasingly complex challenges.

Applications will be accepted electronically. Applicants complete a brief online form and are prompted to provide a cover letter and resume. Open until filled with first review of applications October 18, 2021.


Heather Gantz | Manager, Executive Search |

The City of Fort Collins is an Equal Opportunity Employer and values diversity at all levels of its workforce. Applicants selected as finalists for this position will be subject to a criminal history/credit/ driver’s license check prior to the interview. Under the Colorado Open Records Act, information from your application or resume may be subject to public disclosure.

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