The Division of Wildlife Resources plan to introduce mountain goats into the La Sals could do more harm than good. Introducing a non-native species to a place where it doesn’t exist usually causes problems in the long run. Just because there is a niche where goats could survive doesn’t mean that they should be here.
The highest part of the central La Sals has been designated as a Research Natural Area, where current conditions are to be maintained by allowing natural physical and biological processes to prevail without human intervention. RNAs are supposed to be managed to protect them against activities that directly or indirectly modify natural processes. A mountain goat introduction would certainly affect the alpine tundra and subalpine meadows of the LaSals, harm endemic and rare plants that grow there, and be directly opposed to Forest Service guidelines for use and protection of an RNA.
It makes no sense to add a new species of grazer to the high-altitude La Sals at a time when alpine species of plants and animals are being stressed by climate change and diminishing snow pack. Transplanted mountain goat populations increase readily, and are known to cause damage by the animals pawing the turf, making dust wallows, and chewing up alpine tundra. Once destroyed, this fragile plant community is extremely slow to revegetate, even under ideal climatic conditions. It would be best to not create the problem in the first place.
A recently initiated study of the pikas that inhabit the La Sals could be compromised by introducing mountain goats, which would use the same habitat and food sources. A goat transplant should not be considered before this study is completed.
Why artificially add an unnecessary, potentially harmful species to our small, isolated mountain range? I hope the DWR will reconsider this plan.
Thea Nordling, Moab