MOUNTAIN GOATS TO INVADE THE FRAGILE WILDLANDS AGAIN?
Will it ever end-- bad biology, bad decisions, bad judgment? While not specific to the High Uintas, but deeply important to the Uintas, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources proposed not to put mt. goats in the Mt. Nebo Wilderness. So, you might ask, why complain, why worry?
Because now the issue of UDWR introducing non-native mt. goats into designated wilderness, plainly and distinctly prohibited by Forest Service regulation, is becoming deceptive.
UDWR proposed to put 20- 30 Rocky Mt. Goats not in the Mt. Nebo Wilderness, but only a few miles north on UDWR property on the shoulder of Mt. Loafer. The UDWR plan plainly, and with a hubris grin, admits this is not prime mt. goat habitat and that these goats will quickly move into the Mt. Nebo Wilderness! The language or the intent isn't even hidden. The essence of the plan clearly states the goal is to establish 100-130 mt. goats on the Mt. Nebo Wilderness, where they don t belong, and 50 mt. goats on Loafer, where they don't belong and habitat isn't available. It is difficult to find either an integral plan or a shadow of ecological literacy.
The plan was first presented to the UDWR Central Regional Advisory Council wherein the Forest Service, Pete Hovingh, a well known local biologist, and I questioned the veracity and efficacy of UDWR's plan, which we all opposed! The Central RAC, as it often does, consistent with RACs across the state, ignored the data and the science and supported the introduction effort.
All of this was about as easy to predict as the sunrise!
The fact that the RAC voted to support the UDWR proposal is not necessarily an indication that the proposal will be implemented-- that depends on UDWR, the Utah Wildlife Board and, ultimately, on the Forest Service.
It is an issue of Forest Service integrity, credibility, law and regulation-- not one of supposed partnerships and cooperation with UDWR, which we fully recognize are important, but in this case impossible to achieve! It is an issue of scientific integrity, wilderness and alpine ecosystems.
Mt. goats now reside illegally and with the tacit approval of the Forest Service, in the High Uintas Wilderness (these introductions were all post-wilderness designation introductions) and will reside within the Mt. Nebo Wilderness if this activity is not prohibited by the Forest Service. For years now the Forest Service has had the opportunity to vigorously address and halt these introductions and in the name of cooperation and partnerships has failed to act, adding to the dilemma every time. No matter how uncomfortable, these issues must be strenuously addressed by the Forest Service. Its opposition at the Central RAC meeting means nothing without the courage to prohibit more introductions.