An effort to create a cattle herd and beef processing facilities on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation has run out of money and is in danger of ending.
The $1 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant that funded the initial portion of the project has ended after six years of study on how prairie dogs and cattle can co-exist on rangeland on the reservation that straddles the North Dakota-South Dakota border.
The study has been conducted by officials with North Dakota State University, South Dakota State University, Sitting Bull College and the federal Agricultural Research Service.
Without more funding, fencing and other infrastructure that has been erected on the reservation will go unused and cattle owned by NDSU will be returned to the school's research center at Hettinger, The Bismarck Tribune reported.
Officials have compiled much data on grass nutritional quality and cow-to-prairie dog ratios, and "we finally feel like we have something to talk about," said Chris Schauer, an animal scientist who serves as director of the Hettinger center.
Officials want to continue the biological research and also move into the implementation phase. The ultimate goal is to create an agricultural research site for Sitting Bull College that also can be a locally produced food source for the tribe.
"This whole thing is a tremendous boon for us," said Jim Garrett, a range science professor at the tribal college in Fort Yates.
Officials will be looking for funding sources to keep the project going, according to U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.
"We're going to do everything we can to make sure it continues," she said.