National Park solution: Kill all the mountain goats in Washington’s Olympic National Park
By JIM MATTHEWS
Over the past week, I have struggled through reading much of the mountain goat management plan and environmental document prepared by the National Park Service to control the growing, introduced population on mountain goats in Olympic National Park in Washington.
The goats have been there since the 1920s and they now number around 700 animals. The park service and other government scientists say they have become so numerous they are damaging the habitat, and they have become so habituated to humans, they have become a danger to park visitors. One visitor was actually killed by a goat last year.
That death was perhaps the final straw for the Park Service that has been pondering the problem since 2010 or earlier. So, a near-300-page document was prepared and released to the public this year. The preferred NPS solution is to eradicate the goats from the park, using live capture initially and then lethal methods until they are gone.
I couldn’t find a cost estimate anywhere in the document, but with the live capture and eventual ground and aerial gunning, it would be safe to guess is will cost the U.S. taxpayer multiple millions of dollars. This plan will be implemented in the near future unless wiser heads intervene. Just a couple of points need to be made here:
First, the goats are indeed non-native, but wild, native populations live less than 100 miles away in the Cascade Mountains. The habitat those native populations occupy is nearly identical to the Olympic Peninsula mountains. The habitat in the Cascades is not being destroyed by goats. So what is different? One major simple difference is that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife manages those other goat populations with a comprehensive hunting program.
The simple point here is that a hunting program on Olympic National Park would solve both the overpopulation problem and make the goats wary of humans, but it will still allow visitors to see a majestic Northwest native in the park.
Second, hunting is completely dismissed as an alternative to solve the problem (in three paragraphs) because it would require federal legislation. The whole idea of asking Congress to change some simple wording the Olympic National Park enabling legislation and have a hunting program managed by the state of Washington as part of its other hunting programs is not even considered.
It’s not an alternative.
Why? Well, the biggest reason is because the bureaucracy of the National Park Service doesn’t like hunting. We have a lot of experience with that issue here in Southern California on the Mojave National Preserve – where hunting is allowed – and the park service managers still frown at hunting.
A goat hunting program would solve all the goat problems on the Olympic National Park – and instead of costing money, it would make money for the National Park Service and state of Washington.
Some Congressman or Senator needs to introduce a bill now in Washington, D.C. to address this issue and stop the needless and likely endless waste of money on this program. This wildlife genocide will need to be done again in another 25 or 30 years as goats outside the eradication zone slowly filter back in.
The simple solution: Congress can change the name of the Olympic National Park to the Olympic National Preserve and allow the state of Washington to manage a goat hunting program.
Or even better, change all National Parks to places where managed hunting and habitat enhancement and mitigation for lost habitat outside the park is allowed. In fact, do away with all National Parks and make them all National Wildlife Refuges where active management and habitat manipulation is allowed.
We have lost habitat at an amazing rate in this country. If National Parks managed the ground like National Wildlife Refuges, we could see massive increases in wildlife populations, better management for endangered species, and the recovery of threatened and endangered habitats.
I think the National Park mission has outlived its visionary usefulness. We need a more active approach to protecting, preserving, and enhancing our dwindling natural resources. The National Wildlife Refuge model is a good one now and for the future.
Let’s start with a money-saving, recreation-enhancing solution at Olympic National Park and do a simple fix to the mountain goat problem.
Trump Administration officials: Call me, I’d be happy to help draft the legislation for you.
[Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 909-887-3444.]