Today, Washington Wild coordinated a comment letter signed by 6 other conservation organizations to the Olympic National Park Superintendent regarding their Mountain Goat Management Plan. Mountain goats are not native to the Olympics and their presence has raised concerns for both ecological impacts to the habitat, including soil erosion and displacement of native species, and visitor safety issues with human – mountain goat encounters having dangerous and potentially fatal consequences.
Olympic National Park has suggested a number of options to deal with the problem of this non-native species, ranging from non-action to total lethal removal of the goat population within the park. Washington Wild and conservation and wildlife organizations have expressed support for a moderate option that would address the concerns about non-native mountain goats in the Olympics while translocating captured goats to area in the North Cascades where native mountain goat populations have suffered a deep decline since the 1980s due to overharvest and habitat fragmentation. Furthermore, mountain goats have always been a sacred animal to Tribes in the North Cascades. Historically, mountain goats were an important food resource for the tribes who traditionally used their wool, horn, and bone to make clothing, blankets, tools, and ceremonial objects.
The joint letter supports the preferred alternative which would capture as many goats as possible over a two-year period and translocate them to the North cascades. Lethal control would be used as necessary for remaining goats that cannot be captured on the Olympics.
The letter also suggests improvements to the preferred alternative that would decrease impacts on Wilderness and recreation in the nation’s 7th most visited National Park. This would include limiting trail closures as much as possible and focusing on week day and lower volume recreation times, creating as little user conflict as possible. The letter also suggested that the park consider restoration activities in areas that have been damaged over the years by mountain goats.
This project represents an opportunity to both address the impacts and conflicts of the non-native mountain goats in the Olympic Mountains while also supporting the recovery and health of native populations of goats in the North Cascades.