Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Pack Llamas on Public Lands
The website www.packllamas.org was developed for "Llama Packers" and "Llama Owners" and serves as the most complete repository of research, scientific data, and information related to the scientifically unfounded proposals and current bans of pack llamas on our public lands. On this website there is a detailed response or commentary to these scientifically unfounded proposals. This forty-one (41) page commentary was developed by the North American llama (alpaca) community for the benefit of the many user groups that use our public lands. These user groups include private outdoorsmen, recreationalists, and businesses who hunt, fish, camp, and work on North American public lands and who will be most certainly impacted if these proposals are adopted. A great deal of time and effort went into development of this commentary. It serves as the most complete and up-to-date paper on the history of perceived "llama disease threats." I wholeheartedly encourage every llama owner and anyone who uses our public lands, to read the commentary carefully.
History of Pack Llama Bans in Alaska
Pack llamas have historically played an important role on our public lands, whether they are used to pack equipment for trail maintenance or to haul out human waste as they do in Rocky Mountain National Park. However, over the years there have been scientifically unfounded proposals made by government agencies to ban llamas from our public lands. In January 2015 a ban on domesticated sheep, goats, alpacas and llamas in Alaska’s national parks was proposed in a National Park Service (NPS) compendium. After a public comment period ended in February 2015, domesticated sheep and goats were banned, but the pack camelids (llamas and alpacas) were allowed to keep trekking through the Alaska’s national parks. However pack llamas (and alpacas) now need permission from the state’s park superintendents and a current health certificate. Pack Llamas Get OK After Proposed Ban in Alaska National Parks
Llama ban in Alaska has been imposed by the BLM. 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 Forty-mile, Steese, and White Mountains. For more information, read the article published in Alaska Outdoor Council (AOC) 2018 Spring Newsletter (Click on link and go to page 6.) Pack Animals Denied on BLM Lands in the Eastern Interior RMP.
The National Park Service (NPS) 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 or US Forest Service lands that have wild sheep and goat habitat. Rocky Mountain National Park has been using llamas for packing and trail maintenance for over 30 years. Cleaning Toilets Amid 'God's Splendor' (Star Tribune) and Just a Beautiful Day, Gone to Waste (Denver Post ).
In conclusion, some special interest groups such as The Wild Sheep Foundation (WSF) are promoting an agenda to prohibit pack llamas on public lands due to this perceived "disease risk." Science has shown that llamas are less likely to transmit disease to wildlife than other pack stock such as horses or mules. Ironically these are the very animals that BLM and the WSF consider to be the preferred species. The danger is that other government agencies may follow BLM's lead. Will the lower 48 states be next? I strongly encourage every llama owner and anyone who uses our public lands, to read carefully the commentary posted on packllamas.org and stay informed.
More reading on this topic at the links below.
Pack Llama Ban In Alaska
Llamas Banned from BLM Lands in Alaska
Victory for Llamas in Alaska
Camelids Helping Camelids
Study looks at why Montana's bighorn sheep are still plagued by die-offs
Respiratory Pathogen "Movi" Documented in Additional Species in Alaska is Also Implicated in Alaska Caribou Death - ADF&G Press Release