Pack Animal Magazine

The NAPgA's Troubles In The Winds

by Larry Robinson (Spring 2013)

[Ed. Note: The llama packing community recently dealt with a proposal that attempted to exclude pack llamas from the Alaskan winderness areas, and folks who have been packing with llamas for more than a few years will remember proposed bans in California and in Utah’s Canyonlands, among others. Dr. Murray Fowler wrote a fantastic article in the Spring 2012 issue of The Backcountry Llama in response to our newest battle, and it contained great suggestions on what we, as llama packers, can do to help combat these types of proposals. It’s definitely worth a second read, so I’ve posted it here.

The article below was written by Larry Robinson, the President of the North American PackGoat Association, and details the bans that group is currently fighting. I’d love to hear from BCL readers about what restrictions and bans they are facing in their area—drop me an email to voice your opinion in Letters to the Editor.]

In November of 2011, the Shoshone National Forest summarily closed the Wind River Range to packgoats, ostensibly because they represented a threat to the Bighorn Sheep (BHS) there due to pneumonia pathogens that our goats could possibly be carrying. Prior to the closure, the NAPgA Land Use committee braved Wyoming February 2011 weather, traveling to Cody in order to meet with the Shoshone NF officials in an attempt to stopgap this closure. Later in June 2011 we again met with them via a conference call and presented twelve ‘Best Management Practices’ that we had formulated to give the NF managers complete assurance that we could not be a threat to the BHS even if one of our animals were somehow to get loose and mingle with their BHS. Included in these practices, along with GPS collars for location control, were testing certifications to insure that our goats would not be carrying the pathogens that they were concerned with.

In spite of our best efforts, on November 21, 2011, the lion’s share of the Wind River range was closed to goats. Fast-forward to fall 2012 and the public comment period when we sent out a 2000+ mailing attempting to solicit packgoat-interested folks to get involved by writing a letter to the Shoshone NF opposing their elimination of goats from the forest. We also used an outdoors legal advisor to analyze their Alternatives and write a very comprehensive analysis, which we also forwarded to them during the comment period. So, nothing to do but wait for the FEIS (Final Environmental Impact Statement), expected October 2013, right? After all, this is a one-time issue, confined to Wyoming isn’t it? Sadly, not remotely!

Subsequent to the end of the Shoshone NF public comment period, I became aware that the Inyo NF had reinstated a closure to goats similar to the Winds. Radar is now tuned to long-range! More research indicates that Wallow-Whitman in Oregon is also redoing their forest plan and the operative statement in their plan is, “No packgoats in BHS habitat, or adjacent to BHS habitat.” Now this one hits close to home. My 2011 hike of the Eagle Cap wilderness area made me aware that the Eagle Cap, a part of the Wallowa-Whitman, is the most strikingly beautiful area I have ever hiked. I had every intention to return at first opportunity.

So the reality begins to coalesce that this is not by any stretch of the imagination a limited action, and there is most assuredly an agenda to eliminate goats from the forests, period! Further research indicates that other forest agencies have been instructed to re-accomplish their forest plans. The Chugach in Alaska, the Nez Pearce-Clearwater in Idaho, the Cibola in New Mexico, the Yunque in Puerto Rico, and the Inyo, Sequoia, & Sierra in California.

OK, you say, so what if we get thrown out of the BHS habitat—that isn’t the only place to hike, is it? Well, before you take that line of reasoning too far, do this exercise: Take any state in the west, find a map of the current BHS habitat, include the habitat that used to include BHS that they want to repopulate, and finally add in the areas that they have targeted that have never had BHS but that they want to introduce them to. No matter what state you choose, you will find that after removing yourself from all of those areas, there is precious little left.

And finally, if you think that this is only about packgoats, you do not have a real firm grip on the workings of government incrementalism and the incredibly powerful environmental agenda that is driving all of this. Remembering the statements of Martin Niemöller, if you remain out of the fight until they come for your particular beast of burden, you will likely have nobody left to fight for you.