Pack Goats: Wyoming’s Decision and Risk Analysis Report
This article is a review of Wyoming’s decision to limit boundaries for use with pack goats.
First of all, here is a link to the document and decision of the Forest Service and the USDA about the Shoshone National Forest. https://www.fs.usda.
gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/ fseprd566629.pdf . Here is the past President of NAPGA, Charlie Jennings, and his comments on their decision and his personal summary.
After reading the Record of Decision and the Risk Analysis report, here are my initial thoughts.. First, I am delighted that the USFS did not hold us to a 35km buffer requirement. That would have wiped out goat packing in the entire winds. However, they did implement the suggestions made by NAPGA, the Wild Sheep Foundation, and the Wyoming Game and Fish. I drove to Lander this Fall on two different occasions. I also had NAPgA’s Attorney, Andy Irvine, accompany me on those two occasions. Rather than engaging in head butting with the WSF and the G & F, we tried to meet somewhere in the middle. Somewhere that both sides could feel they could live with.
New Pack Goat Boundaries in WY
If one is not familiar with the region it appears that pack goats are kicked out of 80% of the Forest. Actually, here was the rationale… In the districts in the North part of the Shoshone National Forest, there is a high infestation of Grizzlies. We didn’t think that many goat packers would want to frequent those districts because of that (Absaroka). As far as the Glacier Trail in the Whiskey Mountain region, we gave that up because hardly anybody has goat packed that trail (to my knowledge) in the last ten years. Also, it is a region that is precious to the Bighorn Sheep folks. So, we established the Middle Fork of Bull Lake Creek Drainage as the Northern Boundary. This is located in the southern Fitzpatrick Wilderness area.
They felt good about it, and I felt that goat packers would too, once they understood everything. It allows goat packing up to and including the Middle Fork of Bull Lake Creek. This area is remote and provides good fishing opportunities, and everything south of it. Which includes the entire Washakie Ranger District, which has huge amounts of area with good trails to hike on and lakes to hike into. Like I said, we got away from the 35km buffer way of thinking which would have been devastating. Is there still lots of work to do? Absolutely. We felt that as science emerges that the boundaries need to be re-visited.
Issues with Evidence
Now as far as some of the things in the EIS and the Risk Analysis that really disturb me.. The Forest Service concluded that Dr. Besser’s commingling test show that Bighorn Sheep developed mild cases of bronchopneumonia. So, NAPgA FOIA’d the test results and obtained the actual histopathology reports from Dr. Besser’s lab. The conclusions state that the commingling of MOVI positive goats and BHS produced an immune response. That immune response was called a lung irritation, NOT pneumonia. Pneumonia was NOT mentioned AT ALL in the reports. And the Case Number is 7604 if anyone is interested.
I am going to provide that document to the Forest Service in my public comment. I will also challenge them to show proof of pneumonia. Actually, the health of the goats and the Bighorn Sheep improved. Also, there was no sign of illness or risk of dying at all, after being inoculated with the goat strain of MOVI. So.. Dr. Besser had them euthanized for some reason. Too bad, as it would have been nice to see how well they did in the long term.
BOTTOM LINE – Dr. Besser’s extensive studies which were funded by the Wild Sheep Foundation failed to show that domestic goats would create a die-off. Much less, a catastrophic die-off, even in a penned, close quarter environment. Another thing that disturbs me is that the USFS used a non-specific assay (test). Laura Heinse’s test was a reference in their Risk Analysis that showed a 58% prevalence of MOVI among goats. This paper WAS supported by the WSU – School of the Environment, but not by WADDL. And Laura Heinse is not even an infectious disease expert.
Where to go from Here
So, I am scratching my head wondering why this report was used in making decisions on pack goats. They may as well have included a report on zebras, as far as I am concerned. Apples and Oranges… In conclusion – I hope that Forests in Oregon, Idaho, Washington and California will work closely with NAPgA in decision making processes. Finally, I hope that areas will work for pack goats, and the goat packers will respect the concerns that the Wild Sheep folks have in preserving Bighorn Sheep herds. I also hope that we will work together to find solutions that will work for both sides.
For another article on this subject look here.
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