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Estes Valley Land Trust is hosting a trip to visit Bison Conservation Herd – Estes Park Trail-Gazette

The land trust is hosting a trip and catered picnic lunch on Wednesday, May 22, to the Bison Pasture in the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Red Mountain Open Space, near the Wyoming border. (Estes Valley Land Trust/Courtesy Photo)

Less than a century ago, the American bison (Bison bison) was on the path to extinction when its population, which numbered nearly 40 million in size, plummeted to about 1,000 animals after intense hunting pressure in the late 1800s. Reintroduction efforts throughout the 20th century helped increase bison numbers, but these efforts were complicated by brucellosis, a fatal disease that affects domestic cattle and American bison, and the crossbreeding that occurred between these two species. In 2015, ten brucellosis-free and purebred bison were introduced to the shortgrass prairie in the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Red Mountain Open Space. This herd is growing and the offspring are being moved to repopulate their native range in the western US.

In 2015, ten brucellosis-free and purebred bison were introduced to the shortgrass prairie in the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Red Mountain Open Space.  (Estes Valley Land Trust/Courtesy photo)
In 2015, ten brucellosis-free and purebred bison were introduced to the shortgrass prairie in the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Red Mountain Open Space. (Estes Valley Land Trust/Courtesy photo)

The land trust is hosting a trip and catered picnic lunch on Wednesday, May 22, to the Bison Pasture in the Soapstone Prairie Natural Area and Red Mountain Open Space, near the Wyoming border. The buses leave the Estes Park Visitor Center promptly at 9:00 AM. returns around 3pm. Soapstone Prairie is about a 2-hour drive from Estes Park. Reservations are required and can be made via evlandtrust.org/RSVP. Space is limited.

The cost to attend the event is $40 for land trust members or $60 for non-members (the $60 fee includes an annual membership to the land trust). This is a rain or shine event and the weather can change quickly, so plan accordingly to spend a few hours outside. The picnic will take place in the Spekstone Prairie South parking lot with a large pavilion and vault toilet. The buses will also make a restroom stop between Estes Park and Soapstone Prairie and on the return trip to Estes.

“I am thrilled that our members will be able to see Soapstone Prairie and Red Mountain Open Space this spring,” said Jeffrey Boring, executive director of the Estes Valley Land Trust. “This area of ​​northern Larimer County is beautiful with breathtaking views of the rolling prairie interspersed with the red rocks and limestone of the surrounding hills and mountains.” Bison roam freely in the large Bison Meadow and the Land Trust cannot guarantee that everyone will see bison from the lunch spot or nearby overlook.

Participants will also be treated to an educational program during the picnic, led by Casey Cisneros, Land Stewardship Manager, Larimer County Natural Resources Department and Dr. Jennifer Barfield, assistant professor of reproductive physiology and scientific leader of the Laramie Foothills Bison Conservation Herd. Mr. Cisneros will focus on the challenges of managing Soapstone and Red Mountain to safely house hikers, cyclists, hunters, livestock and a herd of bison. He will also highlight some of the other 130 species of birds and mammals that call this area home, including pronghorn, swift foxes and black-footed ferrets.

Dr. Barfield will focus on using assisted reproductive technology to stop the spread of brucellosis and ensure the bison calves are healthy. Dr. Barfield was the reproductive physiologist responsible for the conception and birth of the world’s first bison calf, using reproductive material from Yellowstone National Park’s bison herd.

“This will be a fascinating educational program and will take place in a beautiful location – the shortgrass prairie of Colorado,” said Boring. “I can’t wait for our members to see it.”

About the Estes Valley Land Trust

Founded in 1987 by Estes Park residents, the Estes Valley Land Trust is a nationally recognized land conservation organization that has conserved more than 10,000 acres of land in the Estes Valley. Please support land conservation by joining the land trust at www.evlandtrust.org/donate.