Joe Gutkoski was born in Wilkes-Barre, PA and was raised as a Pennsylvania deer hunter, trout fisherman and berry picker, hickory nut, walnut, hazelnut, butternut, and American chestnut gatherer. After graduation from high school, he enlisted in the Navy in WWII, where he served on the Destroyer Lansdowne.

He graduated from Penn State University (attended with the GI Bill) with a BS in Landscape Architecture.

Joe began work with the US Forest Service in the late 1940s as a fire fighter in Idaho. He transferred to Missoula, MT, where for 13 years he worked as a Smoke Jumper, squad leader and foreman, fighting fire throughout the West. Joe transferred as a Landscape Architect to the Forest Service Regional Lands Office, doing planning and design work in MT, ID, eastern WA, North and South Dakota, MN and AK. In 1964, he was assigned to the Gallatin National Forest in Bozeman. Joe retired from the USFS in 1982 with 32 years of service. He then started a licensed practice in land planning and design in MT, ID and WY.

Joe is a lifelong environmentalist and defender of public lands. He was President and founding member of Montana Rivers and Yellowstone Buffalo Foundation. He was President, Secretary and Grievance Officer of Local 130 National Federation of Federal Employees Union. He served as equipment manager of Bozeman's Little League Baseball and President of Bozeman Babe Ruth Baseball League. Joe has served as President of the Gallatin Wildlife Association, member of Montanans for Gallatin Wilderness, and Vice President of Montana Wildlife Federation, where he served on the Board of Directors for many years. Joe was President and Secretary of Madison Gallatin Alliance, a Chapter of Montana Wilderness Association. He was also Vice President of The Big Open Project in northeast Montana. He was Vice President and Secretary of Montana/Idaho Chapter of American Society of Landscape Architects, and lastly, Chairman of the Bozeman Schools, Parks and Recreation Planning Committee.