Bison herd to arrive in Afton on June 14

On Saturday, June 14, the Belwin Conservancy is hosting its seventh Bison Release. Guests will experience the energy as a herd of 35 bison are released into a 150 acre restored prairie on Division Street in Afton, Minnesota. The herd will spend four months free-range grazing on protected Belwin Conservancy land. This free, fun, family-friendly event begins at 11 a.m. The release of the bison occurs promptly at noon.

Beginning in 2008 and every summer since, the Belwin Conservancy has welcomed a herd of bison, owned by NorthStar Bison in Rice Lake, Wisconsin, to its protected nature preserve in Afton. The bison are an important resource for the ongoing work of restoring the native prairie landscape. Their unique grazing patterns and behaviors influence the composition of plant and animal species on the prairie. The presence of the bison changes the physical and chemical environment. This increases the diversity of prairie plants, triggering other changes in the prairie’s ecosystem.

“In the last six years of hosting bison,” said Tara Kelly, the Belwin Conservancy’s director of ecological restoration. “We’ve consistently been surprised by how many benefits they are providing. I am thrilled to have them back again.”

Two observation platforms offer spectators a superb panoramic view of the bison and prairie. This public viewing area is located on Division Street near Stagecoach Trail South in Afton, and remains open daily from dawn till dusk until the bison leave in the fall.

Conservationists from the Belwin Conservancy will be on hand to explain the behaviors of bison and their impact on the biodiversity of the prairie. Refreshments will be on sale from ‘The Truck,’ Afton Alps’ food truck. Belwin Conservancy members may sign up for free Bison Buggy rides being offered in the afternoon.

Adults and children are invited to participate in a fun, hands-on art project on Saturday. This project is being led by The Phipps Center for the Arts in conjunction with What We Need is Here. Parking is available at the Lucy Winton Bell Athletic Fields located at 15601 Hudson Road, West Lakeland, Minnesota. Guests can enjoy a short walk through the prairie to the bison release site or hop aboard a free tractor ride. Limited parking nearer the release site on Division Street is available for those who require special access.

Belwin Conservancy is a member-supported nonprofit organization whose mission is inspiring our connection to the natural world. Its 1,349-acre preserve in Afton, Minnesota is home to Belwin Outdoor Science, visited by over 10,000 students from the Saint Paul and Stillwater Area public schools every year.

The Belwin Conservancy is also a leader in prairie and oak savanna restoration. Through its innovative work, the Belwin Conservancy protects the natural world for our future generations.

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