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Update on Pack Llamas & Public Lands in Alaska

 Here is a brief update on recent events relating to pack llamas on public lands in Alaska. 1) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recent actions (2020-2021): The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages their land holding through Resource Management Areas (RMA's) that periodically draft new planning documents (every 15 or 20 years) called Resource Management Plans (RMP's). These RMP's act as guidance for future rule promulgation. The following RMA's in Alaska have recently proposed to restrict or prohibit pack llamas based on a perceived risk of disease transmission to wildlife. a) The Bering Sea - Western Interior RMP (BLM BSWI RMP) in early February 2021 became final. Because the llama community was actively involved during the prescribed open public comment period relating to this decision, the outcome was favorable for us. The final language in the RMP reads as follows: "To minimize the potential for disease transmission to wildlife, applications for the use of pac
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BLM's Central Yukon Draft RMP/EIS

Attention all camelid owners and friends!  The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Central Yukon Draft Resource Management Plan (RMP) & Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is currently open for public comment. The deadline for public comment was extended to June 9, 2021.  BLM Central Yukon At issue is BLM's proposal to hold camelids to a different standard than horses by allowing horses without a permit but requiring a permit for pack llamas in this BLM jurisdiction.   The "good news" is that BLM is not banning llamas in the Central Yukon Management Area. The "not so good news" is that BLM is holding llamas to a different standard than horses . This doesn't make sense because llamas pose no more disease risk (and less environmental impact) than horses and other traditional pack stock such as mules. The specific language we are objecting is as follows.  Maintain effective separation between domestic animals and Dall sheep (Wild Sheep Working Group 2012; cons

The American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners (AASRP) issues policy statement that opposes banning camelid pack animals on public lands

The American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners (AASRP), issued the following policy statement in February 2020. This policy statement comes from a professional association of approximately 1000 U.S. practicing, research, and regulatory veterinarians charged with protecting and guarding the health of the domestic and wild species. They understand better than anyone the disease interactions of each species both within and across species lines.  AASRP Policy Statement Concerning Camelid Pack Animal Disease Risk: There exists concern that the entry of camelid pack animals (llamas, alpacas) onto public lands poses a potential risk of disease to resident endangered or threatened ungulate populations including Boreal Caribou, Northern Mountain Caribou, Central Mountain Caribou, Southern Mountain Caribou, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat, Dall’s Sheep, Stone’s Sheep and Roosevelt Elk. The diseases of concern by National Parks and wildlife managers include: Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae, Mannh

Pack Llamas on Alaska's Public Lands

Lost Lake Trail - Chugach National Forest, Alaska Pack llamas have historically played an important role on our public lands by both recreational and commercial users.  Low environmental impact has long been recognized as the pack llama’s advantage over traditional pack animals. For example, llamas do not have hooves but instead a leathery pad on the bottom of their foot. (The print left in the soil is quite similar in appearance to that of an elk or deer.) Llama foot anatomy allows it's foot to spread on soft ground, thereby distributing weight over a larger area. Llamas are much smaller than most equine pack stock with the average pack llama weighing between 300-400 pounds.”  Therefore it comes as no surprise that these sure-footed pack animals are used by public agencies for trail and park maintenance as they are in Rocky Mountain National Park. However, there has been a campaign of misinformation by special interest groups and subsequent proposals by government agencies to ban

Hike to "The Perch" (Featured Winter Hike)

Why I Like This Hike:   This section of the Historic Iditarod Trail starts from the Eagle River Nature Center (ERNC) and makes for a splendid hike any time of  year especially in the winter after a fresh snowfall. The well-established trail is truly an all-season hike with potential for wildlife viewing and doable for all skill levels. Background : The Historic Iditarod (aka Crow Pass) Trail which spans the Girdwood Valley to Eagle River is considered one of the best trails to hike in the Chugach mountain range because it offers such diversity including glaciers, waterfalls and wildlife. Not only a great hiking/backpacking route, it's also an historic portion of the Iditarod Trail that led from Seward to mines in the Interior. A bit of trivia not known by many is that this trail was rebuilt in the 1970s with girl scout labor. Moose on trail near ERNC How to Get There:   For driving directions to the trailhead at the ERNC go to the   ERNC Website .  Or go to Google Maps

Llama Trekking on Public Lands - An Endangered Activity?

Endangered Activity - Llama Trekking on Public Lands  (Photo by Linda Nuechterlein) Background: As longtime camelid owners may recall, back in the mid 1990’s Canyonlands National Park (NPS-Utah) had proposed a camelid prohibition that was based on a perceived threat of disease transmission to wildlife. Consequently, the camelid owner/veterinary community at the time felt it had no other option than to initiate a lawsuit. The U.S. Secretary of the Interior was named as a defendant because NPS is a U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) agency. Faced with the lawsuit, NPS quickly changed its position and the disease issue was settled out of court exonerating camelids as a disease threat. Now, more than 20 years later, another DOI agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in Alaska has decided to prohibit camelids in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) on the basis that they are a disease threat to wildlife. Nothing has changed since the Canyonlands NPS lawsuit in that no scien

Barbara Falls* (Winter Wonderland)

The hike to Barbara Falls (also known as South Fork Falls*) can be done in any season. The frozen winter (silent) falls can be as spectacular as the noisy summer falls. There are two ways to get to this 60 foot beauty in Eagle River, Alaska. The easiest and shortest way is to drive to the gate at the bottom of Ken Logan Circle. Then walk about a half-mile on old roads from the end of Ken Logan Circle (in a neighborhood off Hiland Road.)   Please respect private property. Depending on your route to the falls, you may be walking in a right-of-way on or near private property. Short Route:  Take the Glenn Highway about 10 miles north to Eagle River Loop and exit toward the mountains. Turn right at the first light onto Hiland Road. Continue uphill about 3.3 miles and turn left onto River View Drive into a neighborhood. Veer left as it becomes Waterfall Drive, then follow until it dead-ends into River Park Drive. Continue right to Ken Logan Circle. Most of the circle is signed off-limits t

ILR Joins Fight Against Alaska Llama Ban

The International Llama Registry (ILR) has joined with Greater Appalachian Llama and Alpaca Association (GALA) "in a legal challenge to attempt to reverse the recent ban by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service of llamas on the Alaskan Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)."  Llama owners and organizations have been successful in reversing proposed bans in several other situations beginning in 1996 by demonstrating there is no scientific evidence that llamas pose a disease risk to other species in the wild. We are hopeful that this lawsuit will reverse the decision that has been made in Alaska. The effects of this Rule are not confined to the ANWR. This Rule also threatens the llama species and industry as a whole because it mislabels llamas as disease vectors, which will serve as the leading statement for the undesirability of llamas as carriers of disease to wildlife and domestic animals. The Rule therefore threatens the continued use of llamas as pack animals thr