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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Response to Llama Ban on Public Lands

The website below has been developed in response to the ban on llamas on public lands in Alaska. As is stated on the site  "This commentary is a response by the North American llama (alpaca) community for the benefit of the many private outdoorsmen, recreationalists, and businesses who hunt, fish, camp, and work on North American public lands and who will be impacted by any implementation of the recommendations made in the assessment and advocated by the Wild Sheep Foundation, and implemented by the AK-BLM-EIRMP."

For the complete commentary and response go to


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

News Flash! BLM Denies Pack Llama Access

BLM Denies Access to User Group Based on “Fake Science”

In December 2016, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) approved the Eastern Interior Resource Management Plan (EIRMP). The EIRMP prohibits the pack llama (camelid) user group from accessing lands in or near Dall’s sheep habitat within the Eastern Interior Resource Management Area (RMA). Subunits within the Eastern Interior RMA include Fortymile, Steese, and White Mountains.

This prohibition violates Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA) access provisions. It was approved based on BLM’s unsubstantiated claim that pack llamas pose a disease transmission risk to Dall’s sheep populations. To the best of my knowledge, BLM is the only government agency (state or federal) in the United States that prohibits pack llama access based on a threat of disease transmission to wildlife. Other Alaska government agencies have proposed similar pack llama bans based on a perceived disease threat that were overturned through the public comment process (Alaska Board of Game 2012, National Park Service Alaska Region 2015). YouTube Video- Pack Llamas In Alaska

The National Park Service (NPS) is almost a zero risk tolerance agency. They looked at the same Canadian studies (that BLM based this decision upon) but came to a completely different conclusion than BLM. For example, pack llamas are welcome in Yellowstone, Glacier, and Rocky Mountain National Parks. They all have sensitive wild sheep and/or goat habitat. Pack llamas are not prohibited on any of Alaska’s NPS administered lands. Rocky Mountain National Park has been using llamas for packing and trail maintenance for over 30 years.

Now that a precedent has been set, other BLM resource management areas in Alaska with wild sheep and/or goat habitat will likely soon follow. Other government agencies may also soon follow BLM’s lead in a domino effect. What user group will be next? Will horses be next? Will dogs be next? If you think I am kidding, check out these links:            http://www.adfg.alaska.gov/index.cfm?adfg=wildlifenews.view_article&articles_id=557

Dr. Gregg P. Adams DVM, MS, PhD professor at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan stated it succinctly, “Camelids are not new nor exotic to North America - they originated in North America. The diseases listed as a risk posed by llamas are no different than a list that could be made up for any species entering the back country, not least, humans. For example, every mammalian species harbours mycoplasma. Contagious ecthema, chlamydiosis and MAP in camelids are rare - far less than in humans. In any risk assessment, the objective is to determine the probability of an event happening and the consequences of such an event. There is no such thing as zero risk, and a zero-risk policy is not a legitimate argument to “strongly support a precautionary approach”, if for no other reason than this approach is not being applied to all equally.”

BLM categorized llamas along with domestic sheep and goats as posing a significant disease risk to Dall’s sheep. This reflects a basic ignorance of the tylopod sub-order. BLM fails to recognize that strong species barriers make llamas far less likely to transmit disease to wildlife than the Bovidae family (i.e. cattle, sheep, and goats) and no more likely than the Equidae (horse) family. BLM has now effectively eliminated a user group based on anecdotal evidence and hypothetical risk scenarios.

There is a preponderance of US scientific literature that found no endemic diseases in llamas or transmission to wildlife. Instead BLM chose to prohibit pack llamas citing two Canadian publications by Garde1 and Schwantje2 which state there is no clear evidence of a communicable disease risk. The Garde publication states, “Conversely, contact between llamas and wild Dall’s sheep or goats may result in disease in wild species, but there is insufficient data available to clearly assess the role of camelids as a source of disease at this time (for additional information see Communicable Diseases Risks to Wildlife from Camelids in British Columbia).” The Schwantje publication states, “Risks from camelids to wildlife in British Columbia remain hypothetical after this risk assessment, as no direct evidence was found to implicate camelids as sources of significant diseases in wildlife in BC or elsewhere.”

BLM’s characteristic “fake science” starts with a hypothesis (pack llama disease threat) and then looks only for evidence to support it. Fake science was recently discussed in Newsweek article Fake News Is Bad Enough. But Fake Science Is Even More Dangerous. Another equally worrisome trend is the increasing frequency of publishing of flawed advocacy research that is designed to give a false result to support a certain cause or position and can be cited by activists long after the findings have been discredited.3   Here’s a link to the full article: http://www.newsweek.com/fake-news-bad-enough-fake-science-even-more-dangerous-735814.

BLM received little or no input objecting to their proposal because the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) notification process was so ineffective. The notification process did not make an effort to target the llama industry, llama organizations, llama outfitters, or any pack llama users.

It is a sad reality that many of our wildlife professionals and land managers cite pseudoscience (fake science) to support regulatory decisions that block access to public lands.

If you have questions or comments, please use the Contact Form on this blog.

By Phil Nuechterlein
Eagle River, Alaska

1. Garde, E., et al. 2005. Examining the Risk of Disease Transmission between Wild Dall Sheep and Mountain (p. 2)
2. Schwantje, et al. 2003. Communicable Diseases Risks to Wildlife from Camelids in British Columbia. (p. v Executive Summary)
3. Miller, Henry I., Newsweek, Dec. 6, 2017, Fake News Is Bad Enough. But Fake Science Is Even More Da