Letters: NPS Proposes to Ban llamas from Alasaka’s National Parks

Greetings,

My name is Phil Nuechterlein and my wife Linda and I have been packing with llamas in Alaska on public lands for more than 30 years. The National Park Service (NPS) is proposing to ban llamas from most of the National Parks in Alaska because of a perceived risk of disease transmission to wild animals. If we allow this to happen this will most certainly set a precedent and we can expect public land managers to follow the NPS lead to ban pack llamas on both federal and state lands all across the United States. If you care about being able to pack with llamas on public lands anywhere in the US, then this NPS decision could eventually affect you. The NPS proposal to ban llamas is currently open to public comment (until February 15, 2015). The NPS website to see their proposed ban and the link to make comments is as follows:

http://www.nps.gov/akso/management/proposed_compendiums.cfm

When you comment, please note that 9 separate identical submittals are necessary to cover all of the NPS parklands affected by the proposed llama ban (See 1-9 below). This is so that each of the 9 different NPS Superintendents will see your comments as they relate to their park. I suggest that you “copy and paste” to submit for each of the 9 parks to make things easier.  By submitting identical comments for each of the following NPS parks you will have covered all of the areas encompassed in this NPS proposed llama ban.

1)      Denali National Park and Preserve

2)      Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve

3)      Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve

4)      Kenai Fjords National Park

5)      Kobuk Valley National Park (Western Arctic National Parklands)

6)      Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park

7)      Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

8)      Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

9)      Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve

Here are some of my thoughts and opinions with respect to this proposed llama ban. Feel free to use my ideas (below) when commenting if you agree but it would be best to edit them to your tastes  as opposed to using the material verbatim. When commenting, I suggest that you  make it very clear that your comments pertain only to llamas (South American Camelids (SAC)) because domestic goats, sheep, and Bovidae are also included in this NPS proposed ban. These other animals are much harder to defend from a disease transmission risk standpoint.

–          No one has ever documented the transmission of any disease from a llama to another species of animal, wild or domestic.

–          The NPS and the Alaska Chapter of The Wildlife Society (an organization referenced in this NPS proposal) have not provided any scientific evidence of a llama disease transmission risk. All of their assertions are hypothetical.   (The Alaska Chapter of The Wildlife Society web address ishttp://drupal.wildlife.org/Alaska/sites/wildlife.org.Alaska/files/red_disease_risk_statement.pdf)

–          To date, I am not aware of any public lands in the US where pack llamas are prohibited on the basis of a disease transmission risk. If they are prohibited it is for other reasons.

–          Historically, llama bans based on a risk of disease transmission have been proposed by the government agencies to include the US Fish & Wildlife Service (KOFA National Wildlife Refuge) and the National Park Service (Canyonlands and Glacier National Parks). After looking at the science, these agencies dismissed their concerns.

–          Alaska hunting regulations effective beginning with regulatory year 2013-2014 imposed a ban on the use of domestic goats and domestic sheep as pack animals for Dall sheep, mountain goat, and muskox hunting. Llamas were specifically excluded from the ban after the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADF&G) studied the science of llama disease transmission risk and concluded that the risk was insignificant. The Alaska Board of Game agreed with ADF&G’s conclusion and adopted the new hunting regulation that allows the use of pack llamas for hunting.

–          NPS states that they are not concerned about any disease transmission risk from horses. Horses can carry some of the diseases that NPS has identified as diseases of concern in their proposal. Is NPS not concerned about horses because they are not ruminants, more distantly related to the wildlife, and therefore less likely to transmit disease? If so, llamas are also not ruminants. Llamas are not even pseudo-ruminants according to “Medicine & Surgery of Camelids” third edition 2010 by Dr. Murray E. Fowler, DVM. See chapter 1.

–          “Medicine & Surgery of Camelids” third edition 2010 by Murray E. Fowler, DVM dispels myths with regard to llamas and disease transmission. See chapter 7.

–          The diseases of concern identified in the NPS proposal are either rare in llamas, not transmittable from llamas to wild game, or they do not occur in llamas.

–          Any decision by the NPS should be based in science, fact, and truth. NPS offers no scientific evidence of a disease transmission risk. NPS offers only hypothetical risk scenarios. NPS concerns are misguided.

–          If NPS chooses to take a zero risk policy with regard to disease transmission, this is unrealistic in today’s society and would serve to undermine the legitimacy and credibility of the decision-making policy.

Please let me know your thoughts, share any advice that you may have, and let me know if you think I am mistaken in any of my observations or conclusions.  Please comment to NPS before the February 15th deadline. Maybe it would help to contact your US Senators and Representatives.

Thank you!
Phil Nuechterlein
Eagle River, Alaska
Ph. 907-694-4136

Obituary: Art Kennel

Arthur J. Kennel, M.D., 85, died peacefully at Charter House on December 12, 2014, after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s Disease. He was born to John E. Kennel and Anna Mary (Summers) Kennel on April 26, 1929, in rural Gap, PA. Arthur is survived by his wife Lois and sisters Naomi (Sol) Yoder of Amsterdam, and Leah Magal of Portland, ME. Also surviving is his daughter Susan Harrison of Toronto, Ontario, and son Kurt (Betty) Kennel of Rochester; five grandchildren: Andrew and Leila Harrison and Simon, Naomi, and Caleb Kennel. Preceding him in death were his brother, Calvin, and sisters Edith Graybill, Alta Stoltzfus, Erma Kauffman, Ruth Glick, Gertrude Yoder, Ann Mast, and Salinda Smucker.

Lois Kennel, Niki Kulklenski and Art Kennel at Hinterland's final Walkabout.  Photo by Kay Patterson.
Lois Kennel, Niki Kulklenski and Art Kennel at Hinterland’s final Walkabout. Photo by Kay Patterson.

Arthur (Art) graduated from Lancaster Mennonite High School in 1947. Although born into a long line of carpenters and skilled in the trade, he embarked on other employment adventures as well. In 1946 he contributed to alleviating post-war conditions in Europe by going to Poland as a sea-going cowboy. Again in 1951 he sailed with a shipload of heifers to Israel. In the summer of 1953 he drove with two friends from Pennsylvania to Alaska for work and adventure.

Art did undergraduate studies at Penn State and graduated from Eastern Mennonite College where he met Lois. He completed his M.D. at Hahnemann Medical School in Philadelphia in 1957. From 1958 to 1963 Art practiced general medicine in Jefferson, NC and Stuart, VA.  In 1960 he and his brother-in-law, Dr. Ivan Magal, established Stuart Clinic. From there he moved on to do Internal Medicine training at Mayo Clinic and a Fellowship in Cardiology at the University of Pennsylvania (1969).

After the births of his two children Art responded to a classified ad by the Medical Assistance Programs International which resulted in moving his family to Kinshasa, Zaire, from 1970-1972 where he became Chair of the Cardiology Department at the 1500-bed Hopital Mama Yemo (now Kinshasa General Hospital). Upon his return to the US he earned a Master of Science from University of Minnesota (1973). Board-certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Disease he became a Mayo Clinic Consultant, Assistant Professor at Mayo Medical School and a Section Head of the Division of Community Medicine. He was a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology, American College of Chest Physicians, Sigma Xi National Research Society, and President of the Mennonite Medical Association and Rotary Club of Rochester. Arthur retired from the Mayo Clinic in 1995.

Arthur had many hobbies: travel, fishing, animals, gardening, photography, music, reading. The project that would enthrall him throughout his retirement began in 1981 when he began breeding and showing llamas. Kennelllamas, in partnership with Lois, was his passion for 30 years.

Art’s interest in scientific research provided opportunities for him to contribute to the llama industry by way of presentations at the University of Cajamarca in Peru, the University of Gottingen in Germany as well as with “People to People” in Australia and New Zealand. A two-term trustee of the Morris Animal Foundation, he reviewed grant proposals and the research agenda on camelids. In 2013 he was honored by the International Lama Registry for his impact on the llama industry.

Art was a man of faith and a leader in the Rochester Mennonite Church as long as he was able. In 2011 he completed his memoirs, Life, Love, Llamas and Laughs: My Story. (Masthof publisher).

The family wishes to express their sincere appreciation to the staff and volunteers of Mayo Hospice and Charter House for their loving care of Arthur. He has donated his body to Mayo Foundation for medical research.

There was a celebration of Arthur’s life at Charter House on December 23. An additional celebration will be held in Lancaster County in April, 2015.

In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be sent to Medical Assistance Programs International, 4700 Glynco Parkway, Brunswick, GA 31525; Heifer Project International, 1 World Ave, Little Rock, AR 72202; Mayo Hospice, 200 1st St SW, Rochester, MN 55905; or International Llama Foundation, Box 8, Kalispell, MT 59903.

Submitted by Lois Kennel