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Llamas Low Environmental Impact Make Them the Logical Choice in ANWR

As a recreational user of pack llamas on public lands in Alaska for almost 40 years, I have some very serious concerns with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) proposed regulatory addition to 50 CFR § 36.39 (k) Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) stating that all domestic camelids (pack llamas) are prohibited.

I appreciate that ANWR is located in a pristine, tundra environment and understand that USFWS is mandated to protect the fragile environment, including the wildlife, in this unique refuge with a world class reputation. However, I must question USFWS’s logic (and motive) in banning the use of pack llamas within ANWR for a plethora of reasons which I will explain in my objection to this proposed rule. 
For many years it has been widely recognized that llamas have far less impact on the environment than traditional pack stock such as mules and horses. Low environmental impact has long been recognized as the pack llama’s advantage over traditional pack animals. An Interna…
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Upper Ship Creek (August Featured Hike)

If you want to get off the beaten path for a more wilderness experience close to Anchorage, take a hike in the upper Ship Creek drainage in Chugach State Park. To avoid snow and harsh weather in the passes and upper reaches, I generally hike there June through mid-September although you can hike into November depending on weather.  My preferred access point is the South Fork trail head  (although there is access in Arctic Valley.) To get to the trail head, take the Eagle River Loop/Hiland Road exit off the Glenn Highway just past the weigh station. Turn right at the traffic light onto Hiland and continue about eight miles up the road. Take a right onto South Creek and follow it to West River Drive and take another right. The parking lot is on your left.
The trail starts out on a boardwalk for a short distance and then turns into a trail that traverses the right side of the South Fork valley as you head away from the parking area. To access the Ship Creek drainage, continue ahead on t…

Llamas, the Ultimate Backcountry Hiking Partner?

Llamas, the Ultimate Backcountry Hiking Partner? Go further, stay longer and hike harder with your 300 pound (llama) hiking partner! Llamas have been raised in South America for centuries as pack animals. The packing ability of llamas combined with their ease of transport enables them to be utilized in a wide variety of situations and makes them ideal for packing. They are popular with hikers and hunters on longer overnight trips because they can carry most or all of the gear. Advantages There are many advantages to using llamas over other types of pack animals. Llamas do not have hooves. They have two-toed padded feet with a toenail which grows over the top of each toe. This makes them very sure-footed. The pads do much less damage to the environment because they do not tear into and dent the ground the way hooves can. For this reason, llamas are often allowed on trails where horses are prohibitedLlamas are browsers, not grazers, and can eat various plants while moving along the trail…

Williwaw Lakes & Long Lake Loop (July Featured Hike)

The hike to Williwaw Lakes is one of the most beautiful in Alaska's Chugach State Park. This trek which is a short drive from downtown Anchorage, offers a variety of options including day hikes, overnight or multiday adventures so you can make it as easy or difficult as you want. (In the winter, it is also a popular ski trail and can usually be hiked to the lower Williwaw Lake depending on snow conditions.) The trek takes the hiker through alpine tundra amid a variety of alpine flowers, grassy meadows and scrub hemlock. The pristine alpine lakes are situated in a mountainous valley above Anchorage at the base of craggy Mount Williwaw (elev. 5,445 ft.). If you make it to the upper lakes, you will be rewarded with stunning views of surrounding mountains and possible wildlife viewing of dall sheep, moose, coyotes, fox, and various waterfowl. There are plenty of camping opportunities around the Williwaw Lakes (as well as Long Lake if you hike the loop.)

There are several ways to acces…

Peaks in Chugach State Park

Here's a list of peaks in Chugach State Park *
"This list shows all major summits of Chugach State Park, a massive recreational resource that borders the Anchorage, Alaska metro area on the east. This park is the primary mountain playground for residents of Alaska's largest city..."(*From Peakbagger.com)
How many will you climb in this summer?
Click here for - Peaks in Chugach State Park
Click here for - Map of Peaks in Chugach State Park

Some hikes here (for non-peakbaggers) - Alaska Hikes

Why Llamas Could Become Coronavirus Heroes

NBC News - Llamas serve surprising role in coronavirus antibody treatment
Llamas hold great promise in the fight against the coronavirus and this has been getting more and more attention lately, especially in mainstream media.  Llamas have something most animals don't.
"This strange property of producing these small simple antibodies," said John Aitchison of Seattle Children's Research Institute. It does not make llamas sick, but does allow them to naturally produce antibodies called nanobodies, which are collected in blood samples. The next step is to isolate specific nanobodies in the lab, find ones that work to combat COVID-19 and produce them in bacteria. The idea, eventually, is to make a treatment for coronavirus patients that may be administered deep in the lungs to keep COVID-19 from spreading. "I don't think there's a biologist in the world that's not thinking about this right now," Aitchison said.

Researchers in Belgium and Texas have …

Camelid Hypothetical Disease Risk - Myths & Misinformation Debunked

(Excerpt from comment to USFWS by Phil Nuechterlein)

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is proposing a regulatory addition to 50 CFR § 36.39 (k) Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) stating that all domestic camelids are prohibited. USFWS concerns that camelids present a disease risk to wildlife in ANWR are clearly misguided and lack scientific evidence. The USFWS proposal to ban pack llamas unfairly eliminates a user group based on the false and misleading portrayal of pack llamas as a "disease threat" to wildlife. Although we have never packed for profit, the USFWS policy implicating pack llamas as a disease threat unnecessarily harms all of us that use pack llamas, including commercial llama packing enterprises in the lower 48 states. Rumor mongering knows no regional boundaries.

The references cited by the USFWS as a basis for this proposed camelid prohibition in ANWR are not credible nor have they been peer reviewed. These same references have been evaluated …

Awesome Arctic Valley

The climb to Mt. Gordon Lyon is an excellent conditioning hike with stunning views. It's also a shorter less demanding hike for an Anchorage visitor who doesn't have a lot of time but wants an overview. The hiker will be rewarded with a breathtaking 360 view of Anchorage, Eagle River, and the South Fork Valley. Starting north: Denali and the Alaska Range (on a clear day) Knik Arm, an old Military site, Highland Mountain, the town of Eagle River (and the river), its surrounding peaks (Magnificent, Baldy, Black Tail Rocks, Harp, Vista & Roundtop), the south fork of Eagle River with Eagle and Symphony Lakes in the distance, Rendezvous Peak, Ship Creek and Indian Valley, Anchorage, Turnagain Arm, and Cook Inlet. You will also get a good view of the Site Summit where they used to hold Nike Missiles years ago. (As a side note, take care not to trespass on the military instillation which borders the trail near the trail head. There may be fines if you are caught.)

Getting there is…