Raise Your Voice! It’s Not Too Late for the Mountain Goats: Deadline 10/10/17
Anyone who’s so beleaguered by the treatment of animals or the state of politics in this country, or both, that they haven’t taken time to speak up for the mountain goats of the Olympic Peninsula (HERE IS THE LINK TO COMMENT) should take heart: We have been here before. We can make a difference.
Just ask Roger Anunsen and Cathy Sue Ragan-Anunsen. They helped lead the fight against removing the mountain goats in the ‘80s and ‘90s, when it seemed the National Park Service (NPS) had its case all sewn up.
The Anunsens represented The Fund for Animals (now part of The Humane Society of the United States) on the National Park Service Olympic Mountain Goat Management Committee and ended up reading the NPS’s entire case — article after report after brief — on long drives between their home in Oregon and meetings about the goats in Port Angeles.
Before they started reading the full documents, “we believed everything that the park officials said publicly and to the media and thought the only remaining question would be how to solve the (alleged) problem in a non-lethal manner,” Ragan-Anunsen said. Reading every available document changed their minds.
First, the NPS didn’t acknowledge historic evidence — including a 1896 report from National Geographic, which was one of the foremost scientific publications in the country — that goats lived on the Olympic Peninsula before the 1920s, when other reports say people first located them there. The NPS “told the public over and again that there was no evidence whatsoever that mountain goats were ever seen in the Olympics before the 1920s,” the Anunsens said. But, they said, their FOIA records request uncovered the fact that the NPS knew about that same 1896 National Geographic article and intentionally hid it from the public.
Why would the park service hide something like that? It’s hard to say, but possibly because they believed it was in the best interest of the area’s plants that the goats be removed, the Anunsens said. One group pushing hard to remove the goats were concerned about native plants — but the vegetation studies they cited were either flawed (the goats were drawn to salt blocks that the NPS’s own scientists had placed near the plants in order to attract the goats for a goat study — oops) or found the goats had little to no actual impact on the plants.
The Anunsens, The Fund for Animals, professional photographers Keith and Antje Gunnar of Whidbey Island, and others campaigned for years to keep the goats in what may be their native habitat, and they succeeded with the help of many others who reconsidered their position once they became aware of park officials’ unsubstantiated claims and “sloppy science” that served as the foundation for their effort to remove or kill the Olympic mountain goats. U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks helped. So did The Seattle Times’ editorial board.
It’s unclear why a similar widespread campaign is not happening now, the Anunsens said. But some reporters have documented the parallels:
- The Kitsap Sun’s Seabury Blair Jr. views the state’s environmental impact statement as “an impressive document that demonstrates four decades dedicated to justifying slaughter of a wild animal.”
- A conservation biologist who led an independent team looking into the goats’ impact on the peninsula in the ‘90s found that the goats now there came from the 1920s goats — and that they have little impact on the rare native plants. Wind, rain and snow do more damage, he recounted to The Seattle Times’ Evan Bush.
- In that same article, Bush recounted questions that NARN board president Rachel Bjork posed at one of the poorly attended public meetings regarding the goats, along with the state’s answers:
- Don’t you just want them for hunting in the Cascades? (Harris responded that officials are motivated to grow the Cascades populations. They’d need to see rising numbers before considering hunting.)
- Why can’t you use contraceptives instead of killing? (Contraceptives are untested for mountain goats, Happe said, and only last for three years in other ungulates.)
- Why allow the option to take some mountain-goat kids to zoos? Isn’t it inhumane to take them from their parents? (Kids could struggle in relocation and zoos are interested in young mountain goats, Harris said.)
It’s not the full-throttled outcry of the Fund for Animals, a U.S. representative and the editorial board of the state’s largest newspaper. Nor is it a book like 1998’s “White Goats, White Lies: The Abuse of Science in Olympic National Park” by R. Lee Lyman, an anthropology professor from the University of Missouri-Columbia. It’s also not the 25-page booklet, “Olympic Monarchs: Don’t Let Them Get Your Goat!” that the Anunsens compiled to refute the park’s case point-by-point and to save the goats from transfer, hunting, zoos and killings in the ‘90s.
For some reason, there’s not been an outcry this time — at least not yet.
“To make it through this part of the process without major controversy … I’m encouraged,” the park’s acting superintendent, Lee Taylor, told The Seattle Times. “It feels like this is the moment we could get it done.”
“[W]e could get it done” doesn’t sound right, perhaps because it’s not.
Let’s at least step up the number of comments the Park receives on behalf of the goats. Please let the Park know what you think of its plan for them — HERE IS THE LINK FOR COMMENTS, WHICH CLOSE ON 10/10/17. Please take a moment to take a stand with us. Please submit a comment, write a letter to your local paper, call your state or national lawmakers and post on social media on behalf of these mountain goats.
“I think we are now at that same stage we were in initial hearings [decades ago], where everyone believes it’s a done deal,” Ragan-Anunsen said. “If we can let them know it doesn’t have to be that way, if they want to be involved, perhaps we can stop the train in its tracks.”
Photo by Wingchi Poon (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Oreamnos_americanus#/media/File:Wherever_you_go_I_will_go.JPG) Creative Commons license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/