WTARC History and Background
Authorization for Montana Agricultural Experiment Station's Western Triangle Agricultural Research Center came from the 1977 Legislature, which appropriated $206,000 for the biennium ending June 30, 1979. An additional $4,000 was contributed by the Montana Wheat Research and Marketing Committee. The Research Center (first called a satellite station) was charged with serving the agriculture needs of the western half of Montana's Golden Triangle, which encompasses the following counties: Glacier, Pondera, Teton, Toole, and western portions of Liberty, Chouteau, and Cascade. Impetus for the new center came primarily from farmers and ranchers of the Western Triangle, who organized their efforts through the Soil Conservation Districts.
A 12-man Advisory Board, representing all the counties involved, was established during the fall of 1977. The Board met in early October to establish guidelines pertaining to site location, and to develop the role and scope of the Research Center.
Jim Krall of the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station in Bozeman, was appointed Coordinator, and summoned the assistance of personnel from Montana State University, the Soil Conservation Service, and other agencies to provide the Advisory Board with technical information on soils, climate, and other disciplines pertinent to site selection.
In January 1978, Dr. Greg Kushnak was hired as the first Superintendent of the Western Triangle Research Center; and the following April, Ronald Thaut joined the staff as the first Research Technician. Temporary headquarters were set up in Conrad.
Research Center Location: The Advisory Board members and the Montana Agricultural Experiment Station were in general agreement that the Research Center should be strategically located in order to expedite service to all counties involved. It was felt that the Conrad area would best satisfy this need because of its central location, proximity to Interstate 15, and the availability of both irrigated and dryland facilities.
Selection of a location on soil typical of the Western Triangle was given high priority. This narrowed the site selection to a Scobey/Kevin glacial till soil, which was by far the most prevalent of the region.
Other factors considered were: good accessibility to the public, availability of utilities, within 10 miles of a service center, landowners’ willingness to sell, and property price. It was felt that 40 to 80 acres would be sufficient to accommodate the on-station research activities, since off-station research in the various counties was held with equal importance.
Members of the Advisory Board provided over 30 names of landowners to be contacted. The Advisory Board and MSU staff, assisted by the SCS Soil Survey Team from Choteau, examined each of the prospective sites for suitability and availability. In March 1978, the Advisory Board selected the Denzer land nine miles north of Conrad. The Board of Regents authorized purchase of this land on May 31, 1978, but Title complications delayed the transfer, and closing was not completed until sometime in December 1978.
The site consisted of 75 acres of land, included an irrigation canal and pump, and met all of the selection criteria.
Building Acquisition: The Advisory Board approached the Tiber County Water District regarding the possibility of transferring a 60 × 100' steel government building from the Water District to the Research Center. The Water District agreed to release possession of the building and received authorization for the transfer from the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. Authorization for transfer however was contingent upon purchase of the land.
Advisory Board: The Advisory Board for the Western Triangle Agricultural Research Center was formed during the fall of 1977and consists of farmers and ranchers from each of the seven counties in the western half of Montana's Golden Triangle Area. Additional plans called for the addition of businessmen to the Board. Board members are appointed by the County Commissioners and/or Soil Conservation Districts in their respective counties. Appointments are three year terms and members are limited to a maximum of two terms.
The Advisory Board has played an essential role in the development of the Western Triangle Research Center. Many days of their valuable time were spent seeking information on buildings, site selection, available utilities, etc. A hearty vote of thanks to all of the members for their excellent service! Special thanks to Joe DeStaffany for leading the group as Chairman, and for helping with soil sampling. Also to Dick Page and Paul Kronebusch for serving as vice-chairman and secretary.
Following is a list of the Advisory Board members:
Appointed through 1979
Richard Page, Bynum, Teton County
Dave Shane, Floweree, Cascade County
Gary Iverson,Sunburst, Toole County
Vade Hamma, Brady, Chouteau County
Appointed through 1980
Henry Wilson Hodgskiss, Choteau, Teton County
Don Buffington, ledger, liberty County
Jerry Swenson,Cut Bank, Glacier County
Appointed through 1981
Karl Ratzburg, ledger,Toole County
Paul Kronebusch, Conrad, Pondera County
Joe DeStaffany, Conrad, Pondera County
Dale Vermulm,Cut Bank,Glacier County
Jack Baringer, Conrad, Extension Service Representative (ex-officio)
Committee Officers during 1978
Chairman: Joe DeStaffany
Vice-Chairman: Richard Page
Secretary: Paul Kronebusch
Following are the Minutes to the Advisory Board meetings during the first year and some earlier Soil Conservation District meetings pertaining to the establishment of the Western Triangle Agricultural Research Center.