Volt retires from NRCS

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photo by Kim Cameron
Mark Volt enjoys his retirement party on Saturday, June 3
while Sheilah Jones gives him a gift to repay him from a
joke he had played on her twenty years ago.

In 1983, the Middle Park Times heralded the arrival of the new District Conservationist for the Soil Conservation Service, Mark Volt. who was young and single. Then through the years, his articles on snow pack then graced the covers of the Middle Park Times, the Sky Hi and even the Grand Gazette.

“Most know me for measuring snow.” Mark laughs after 34 years in the office, he knows that water and snow are important for those in Grand County.

In fact, backcountry skiing, fishing, and kayaking, some of Volt’s hobbies had drawn him to the Grand County area. Volt knew he was a good fit for the small field office, and it would allow him to use his agronomy degree in the area with its focus on irrigated mountain meadows. He had been working on the western slope for four years but was excited to move to the Kremmling area.

Volt was also blessed to meet his wife, Audrey in Kremmling when she was hired in 1987 to be the new extension agent at the CSU Extension office. She shared his passion for spending time in the outdoors, and they married in 1992. They raised two sons, Cody and Andy, who now attend their father’s alma mater, Colorado State University as engineering majors.

Volt arrived in Grand County when agriculture and ranching were still predominantly family-owned and family run and he has said it has been an honor to work with so many of the ranching families and to get to know “the characters” such as Bud Linke,

Lynn Matheson and Con Ritschard. “They were all just good guys. My

favorite part of working here has been

the ranchers, and it has been a privilege to get to know so many of them,” he recalls.

“It has also been a pleasure to work with Kayo Scholl. Kayo just chipped away on his property over the years to make improvements. He put pipelines in and put structures in. He is just one of my favorite guys. He is solid.”

The Middle Park Soil Conservation District was put in Kremmling in 1957 to establish resource concerns. For the last 38 years, Volt has been working with ranchers and other private landowners to address these concerns – soil, animal, plant, irrigation projects, and range improvement projects. He often collaborates and partners with other agencies, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Bureau of Land Management, and the

U.S. Forest Service. Most importantly, the landowners voluntarily work with Volt and these agencies.

“It is a big honor that many of the people who are anti-government work with me,” Volt said. He added that the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) isn’t making rules or enforcing them, it is here just for the purpose of helping large property owners. The Natural Resource Conservation Service, originally named the Soil Conservation Service, was developed in the 1930s during the Depression and the Dust Bowl days and helps to keep United States agriculture strong.

Volt quotes a modified saying of John Jeavons, “Man … owes his existence to six inches of topsoil and the fact that it rains.”

“We really have a sustainable form of agriculture in this area with simple irrigation to grow enough hay for the winter to keep the cows fed and enough range to sustain them during the summer. It really hasn’t changed a

lot over the years,” Mark Volt enjoys h Volt admits even while Sheilah Jon though the face joke he had played

of the rancher has

changed.

Fortunately for Volt, he has had the recent opportunity to work with the fourth-generation rancher, Jay Yust on improvements on his ranch. “This has just been a career-topping deal.”

Volt worked with Yust to install irrigation control structures to increase irrigation efficiency, develop numerous springs and ponds for livestock and wildlife watering, seeding of clover and other legumes to enhance forage quantity and quality, addition of cross fences to improve grazing management, and noxious weed control.

Even though Volt is officially retired, there is not an immediate plan to fill his position for at least six months. Volt will continue to work in the office two days a week as a technician for Middle Park Conservation District. This feeds into Volt’s passion for working with private land owners to develop and engineer projects. In his free time, Volt plans to do more improvement projects on his 84 acres on the Gore, and to hopefully pursue more of the hobbies that initially brought him here – hunting, fishing, kayaking and skiing.