THE MOUNTAIN GOAT SAGA CONTINUES
From the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Wildlife News, September 22, 2000 (UDWR Website): "VERNAL - September has been a busy time for mammal and bird releases in the Uinta Basin. In a two-week period, biologists from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources released chukar, Rocky Mountain goats and black-footed ferrets....
...On Sept. 19, nine Rocky Mountain goats were released into the Uinta Mountains. The goats, two males and seven females, were released on the Ashley National Forest near the Jefferson Park area above the Uinta River. Biologists predict this small herd will move up and settle in along the slopes of Mount Emmons...."
What more can be said? Indeed, this issue has filled its share of pages; see the HUPC REVIEW and LYNX, 8/00, 10/99, 10/97, 8/97, 5/97, 1/97. We have tried to engage the Forest Service on this issue for almost a decade now. We have played this game openly and honestly, never hiding our concerns or beliefs. We have argued on the basis of science, the available data, Forest Service wildlife and wilderness policy. We have provided the Forest Servcie with factual information and data. We have met with all of the appropriate staffs numerous times. We have personal conversations, letters and notes dating back over a decade that this kind of nonsense should not be happening, that it will stop, that it was/ is the Forest Service intention to get control of this and appropriately halt it. We have been assured of studies and analyses. We have asked and been assured that we would be kept abreast of any actions pertaining to mt. goats on National Forest lands, particularly designated wilderness. All of this we have documented time and time again.
Maybe all of this has occurred because of some super-power status harbored by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR), but more likely because of simple neglect. The hubris and intellectual dishonesty reflected by this issue stands out in my 25 year career in Utah, particularly knowing that what is happening on the Uintas (and elsewhere) runs counter to Forest Service policy and numerous direct statements to us over the years.
UDWR's statement clearly notes mountain goats are being placed on lands not suited as goat habitat-- this has been consistent behavior on their part because even UDWR knows goats don't belong within the High Uintas Wilderness-- with the intent for the goats to move into the High Uintas Wilderness ( "...the slopes of Mt. Emmons"). And, not surprisingly, this has happened consistently. Whether from Whiterocks Canyon or now from Jefferson Park, all parties knew and know the goats will move in to the High Uintas Wilderness. And they have done so...
The High Uintas Wilderness has been diminished by this process. Of that there is no doubt. Wilderness policy has been mocked-- also, no doubt. The Forest Service has allowed UDWR to degrade wilderness, Forest Service wilderness management policy, public involvement and participation, and shaded the agency's integrity.
Mountain goats are not a native species here and hence specifically should not be introduced in designated wilderness and should not, if the agency truly honors the language of ecosystem management, be introduced anywhere outside of their native habitats.
When confronted with this information, we began what we imagined to be a long, but ultimately successful, effort at convincing the Forest Service that goat introductions would be contrary to wilderness and wildlife policy. Instead, we have been confronted with obstinacy in the face of factual data. At times in meetings and correspondence we have portrayed the issue as a confrontation without a disputation-- because the primary Forest Service decision-makers have agreed, as we've already noted, that mt. goats do not belong in the High Uintas Wilderness. Yet here they are in the hundreds with more and more being introduced with Forest Service knowledge and capitulation.
We again implore the Forest Service to go back to step one and halt all transplants to and around all designated wildernesses. It is the only meaningful and right thing the Forest Service can and should do.