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Bison Association to host summer conference

Private bison producers will be joined by policymakers, conservationists, tribal leaders and buffalo aficionados as they gather in Big Sky, Mont., and surrounding areas June 16 to 19 for the National Bison Association's annual summer conference.

Participants at the association's annual summer meeting will tour Yellowstone National Park to meet with the Park's bison superintendent, travel to Ted Turner's scenic Flying D Ranch to learn about their ecologically-friendly bison management practices, and will hold a series of discussions at the Big Sky Resort addressing a wide array of topics affecting today's bison industry. On June 19, the association is sponsoring special Bison 101 seminar targeted to new and expanding buffalo ranchers, sponsored by the USDA Risk Management Agency.

"Montana is central to many issues and events affecting the buffalo business across the country," said NBA President John Flocchini. "We're pleased that we are pulling together an extremely diverse group of speakers and topics that touch upon the complex issues in our industry."

On June 16 conference participants will travel by bus to tour Yellowstone National Park, and to meet with Rick Wallen, the chief ecologist for Yellowstone National Park. Wallen will review with the group the Park's bison management philosophy, including the ongoing efforts to address Brucellosis within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

On June 17, conference attendees will hear from the leader of the Intertribal Bison Council, a panel of national bison conservation officials, and from scientists who have embarked on the process of mapping the bison genome. Jim Stone, executive director of the ITBC will visit with the conference about the concerns of tribal interests in bison management, and public policy issues.

Dr. Dave Hunter, chief veterinarian for Turner Enterprises, Inc., along with Dr. Steven Olsen of USDA Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa, will provide a presentation during the June 17 meeting at the Big Sky Resort on the current work being conducted to map the bison genome. Also, representatives of the Wildlife Conservation Society, the National Park System, and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will discuss conservation challenges for today's bison as well as the public/private collaboration that is helping to restore bison to the American landscape and diet.

On June 18, the conference venue will shift to the scenic Flying D Ranch south of Bozeman. The Flying D ranch is significant to the modern bison business as the first ranch Ted Turner started raising his commercial herd of American bison on. The picturesque ranch will offer attendees a rare opportunity to learn about the inner-workings of their bison operation. Officials there will lead the conference participants on a tour of the ranch and its bison handling facilities, among other activities. Further, Flying D staff will review the ranch's animal health practices and management philosophy.

Registration for the conference is available on the NBA's website, www.bisoncentral.com. The registration fee for the June 17meetings and the Ranch Day at Flying D is $175 for NBA members. The association is offering a special "Join 'n Go" rate for non members. The deadline to register is June 1.

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