Battle plan being devised to save Fort Keogh

By: 
Ashley Roness
Star Staff Writer

A local effort is underway to make the case for keeping the Fort Keogh Livestock and Range Research Laboratory — which is slated for closure in the Trump administration’s proposed budget — open.

During Thursday’s meeting, the Miles City Area Economic Development Council (MCAEDC) discussed the possible closure.

John Laney, Miles City Area Chamber of Commerce executive director, said he is working with the scientists at Fort Keogh to gather a synopsis of their work, as well as determining if that research can be done anywhere else. 

After the information is compiled, Laney plans to send it to U.S. Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana) and U.S. Sen. John Tester (D-Montana).

“They’ve said that there’s a lot of other jobs that could open up elsewhere but if their research won’t transfer they might just as well be hiring anybody else,” said Laney. “We’re gonna fight it to the death.”

Along with gathering the information from Fort Keogh, Laney said the Chamber is also working on an economic impact statement to show what Fort Keogh means to the region’s economy.

“It affects people that don’t even know they’re being effected,” Laney said.

According to Laney, he’s been told that the federal budget proposal will be dead on arrival but he said he feels like area officials need to be prepared just in case. 

Custer County Commissioner Keith Holmlund said that if more people understood what the scientists do they would have more backing.

Some of the long-time programs include the Line One Herefords herd, and research into Food Animal Production and Pasture, and Forage and Rangeland Systems. 

Mark Petersen, research leader at Fort Keogh, told the Star last week that the facility employs 20 USDA-paid employees and 17 who are paid through the Montana State University Extension Service. Fort Keogh has an annual budget of approximately $4.5 million, of which $3.5 million are federal dollars with the rest coming from the state.

Petersen said that over 80 percent of Fort Keogh’s expenditures are spent in Miles City.

The Trump budget proposal will now go through the Congressional approval process but is subject to change.

(Contact Ashley Roness at starnews@midrivers.com or 406-234-0450.)

Category: