Jodi Hill named Conservationist of the Year

photo by Kim Cameron| Jodi Hill stands with Mark Volt of the Natural Resources Conservation Services at the Middle Park Stockgrowers/NRCS dinner on Saturday night.
photo by Kim Cameron| Jodi Hill stands with Mark Volt of the Natural Resources Conservation Services at the Middle Park Stockgrowers/NRCS dinner on Saturday night.

Local rancher, Jodi Hill was presented with Conservationist of the Year award by the Middle Park Soil Conservation District.

Jodi’s work to provide high protein forage for wildlife, and updating and improving his irrigation systems was applauded by the MPSC District board.

In 2000, Jodi was building a cabin on his property when Mark Volt, District Conservation Technician, suggested planting alfalfa, sanfoin, clover and turnips for wildlife. Jodi had a lot of loose, worked dirt around the cabin site and purchased the turnip seed, spread it, and later found it truly did bring in deer and other wildlife.

Volt explains the Conservation District sells seeds, and a high protein mix of legumes, which is usually turnip, alfalfa, clover, and sainfoin, provides a great food plot for wildlife. It is also excellent for sagebrush areas and can provide food for deer, elk, and even sage grouse.
“It is super palatable, and deer and elk are naturally drawn to it,” said Volt.

Jodi noted more than deer and elk are attracted to the high protein mixture. Jodi has seen everything from bighorn sheep to porcupine grazing on the food plots.

“It is amazing how it draws the wildlife,” Jodi highlighted, “Every animal we got just loves it. They go in there and eat the turnips, and what is cool is they really don’t hit it hard until about September when it gets cold.” Jodi explained the animals come in and eat the green tops, the frost then freezes it and the turnips, “get really sweet and the game goes nuts for it. It is like a piece of candy for them.”
As Jodi spent time cultivating the art of seeding, he saw the results of his work – wildlife was attracted to the food plots. Eventually, others started calling him to help with their projects.

Now, with the help of his wife, Sandy, and son, Clay, he helps others to plant turnips.and wildlife mixes. “It is pretty cool that the three of us get to work together.”

Jodi explains the process. “We have three big John Deere tractors one with a rototiller, one with a brush hog, and one with a seeder behind it. We pull a drag over it sometimes too. A lot of times you have to go over the land three or four times just to get it looking good.”
Jodi added it can be a lot of “trial and error” but was thankful for the work done by Paul Tudor Jones at the Blue Valley Ranch and the help from Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW).

CPW was actively involved in the wildlife projects at Blue Valley Ranch and shared their experience and knowledge with him. Jodi said of CPW, “They helped us a ton, and helped us figure out how to do it all. It saved me a lot of steps.”

“I am also thankful for all the other ranchers who let us try this on their places,” Jodi said. Volt said of Jodi,

“He helps a lot of other people and helps promote good land stewardship. The food plots are a good feed for the animals, even cattle, and help prevent erosion… He was one of the first to take an interest in this and to do it right. We are appreciative of the help he gives others. He is willing to share whatever we teach him. It is one of the highest compliments to us that he took it and ran with it.”
Volt didn’t have hard numbers for Jodi’s impact but knows he has planted hundreds of acres and thousands of pounds of legume seed in his wildlife plots..
“Jodi is a hard worker. He starts early and works late, and works hard at whatever he does. And he does it with a big ol’ grin on his face,” Volt continued.

Over the last five years, Jodi has replaced 150+ check and turnout irrigation structures between his home place on the Troublesome Creek Ranch and his mom’s place known as the Singer up Muddy Creek as well as other properties that Jodi manages.

According to Volt, “In addition, Jodi, with the help of Natural Resources Conservation Services and Farrell Excavating, replaced the Blickley headgate/diversion on the Troublesome Creek place. This helped with stream channel stability in Troublesome Creek while improving fish habitat and saving countless days each year dozing up temporary gravel diversions.” (see picture)

These irrigation structures increase irrigation efficiency, save water, save time and reduce irrigation-induced erosion. Time-saving is one of the biggest benefits of the project that Jodi noticed, “It used to take all day to irrigate.”

As a property and ranch manager, Jodi said, “We manage a lot of ranches and we tell them about the programs, and they will go in sign-up for the conservation projects.”

Of the conservation projects, Jodi said of Volt’s expertise, “He loves to
better your property and is handy with all of that. He will help you plan, survey, tell you what size of you pipe you need, and design your project.”

For more information on the Middle Park Conservation District/Natural Resources Conservation Service’s programs, call 970-724-3456