After serving for 23 years as the district conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Office (formerly the Soil Conservation Service) in Homer, Mark Kinney is putting away his Xtratufs, and retiring.
His last day in the office was Nov. 30.
Arriving in Alaska 34 years ago, Kinney worked as a range conservationist in Anchorage for the USDA Soil Conservation Service. Summer field work on the Seward Peninsula led to the publication of the Range Survey of the Seward Peninsula, a huge undertaking describing and mapping vegetation communities for 15 million acres.
He transferred with the Soil Conservation Service to become the District Conservationist out of Fairbanks for seven years. After a very brief move to California, he moved back "home" to Alaska as the district conservationist for the Homer Field Office, where he has served ever since.
In addition to the Homer Area, his changing field areas have included the Seward and Alaska peninsulas, the Kenai-Soldotna region, Kodiak Islands, and the entire Aleutian Chain and Bering Sea islands.
Anyone meeting Mark catches his enthusiasm for supporting conservation and agriculture. He is considered a local expert in bluff erosion and has been instrumental in the establishment of tree plantings in the wake of the spruce bark beetle epidemic. He has planned numerous shallow water wildlife ponds, hayland plantings and agricultural conservation plans with local landowners.
With the recent high tunnel enthusiasm that has swept the lower Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak areas, Kinney has been vital to the success of this cost-share program. His field office has contracts for more high tunnels than any other in the nation.
Kinney is not only known for the work that he does, but for the way that he carries it out. He has a genuine interest in people and the kindness in his heart shows through. He is known for his willingness to listen to anyone who may pass his way with a problem.
The public he has served and the people he has worked with will miss him dearly. Mark and his wife, Shawnee, plan to take many trips roaming the continents and chasing the sun.