Greens should not stick to their guns

  Dear HCN,

Your piece on the mountain goats in Olympic National Park perpetuates the myth that environmental groups should stick by Park Service propaganda (HCN, 3/3/97).

Park officials continue to declare the goats were brought to the Olympic Peninsula by settlers in the 1920s. They were embarrassed, however, when the Fund for Animals unearthed an 1896 National Geographic feature article that irrefutably listed mountain goats among the wildlife of the Olympics. Further research led to other discoveries, including that two of the three major expeditions to the area reported the presence of mountain goats.

The park has not been able to document that goats have a significant impact on any plants. There are no endangered plant species in the park - none!

Seattle Times outdoor writer Ron Judd summed it up best when he wrote in an open letter to park officials: "After decades of research costing millions of dollars, the best reason you can offer for your radical solution is that rare plants have the "potential to be impacted" by goats. Potential to be impacted? ... If this were an eighth-grade science project, you'd be sent back home to try again."

Most importantly, the population of mountain goats in Olympic is declining naturally - the fuzzy critters are perhaps the slowest reproducing of all ungulates. If the Park Service couldn't prove that 1,200 goats were a threat to park plants, how can they possibly believe that the 200 remaining goats are any threat whatsoever? The mountain goats - and the park's perceived problems - may soon disappear on their own.

Eating or trampling a few plants should not be grounds for capital punishment, especially when those plants are not even endangered. The park wants to shoot hundreds of majestic mountain goats based only on fear and paranoia.

Environmentalists should question the claims of the Park Service rather than believe them blindly, and the Park Service should terminate its goat-killing plans rather than continue to waste taxpayer dollars on their conjured-up threats.

Mike Markarian

Silver Spring, Maryland

The writer is the director of campaigns for the Fund for Animals.

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