I had a good conversation yesterday with Lynette Otto of the Shoshone National Forest.
Lynette is a biologist and has been given the assignment to write a forest plan revision for the East side of the Wind River Range in Wyoming. She informed me yesterday that the Winds, as they are called, have the largest herd of Big Horn Sheep in the country.
As a side note, she works closely with Kevin Hurley of the Wyoming Game and Fish, who, by the way, is also affiliated with the FNAWS group (Foundation for the North American Wild Sheep). Kevin is now responsible for the Bighorn Sheep for the entire state of Wyoming and is VERY passionate about them.
Anyway, I have been in touch with Lynette pretty much over the last year concerning this revision. A few months ago, she had asked for comments from anyone who uses packgoats as to WHERE they would be used on the East side of the Continental Divide. Apparently she got quite a bit of feedback, and this is what I found interesting - Instead of finding goat packers to be careless hikers who didn't care about her Bighorn Sheep, as far getting close to the herds and spreading diseases to them, she found that we goatpackers were very concerned about the Bighorn Sheep and were just as interested in their survival as they are.
It seemed to score a lot of points with her, the fact that we were willing to cooperate, to avoid areas where the Bighorn Sheep might be at a certain time, to practice Leave No Trace Ethics, etc. This is the impressions that she received from all of the responses, and this is also the message that I have tried to convey in our conversations.
I would like to post this in the next issue of the NAPgA newsletter, to inform the subscribers of what is going on currently in the Winds. This is a very delicate issue and can go either way. Either it can develop into a pack goat friendly attitude where we can be allowed to go into lots of areas in the Winds, which will help us on the WEST side as well, or it can develop into something VERY ugly where they will kick us out forever. I told her that NAPgA is interested in educating the pack goat community as far as ethics in goatpacking, highlining, keeping your distance from the Bighorn Sheep herds, etc.
It is and was my intention to keep the trails open for the Packgoat community as I represent NAPgA to these folks.
Any lost packgoats in the northern Winds right now could be fatal to our cause and could adversely affect goatpackers for generations to come, so I am hoping that goat owners will use their heads when they are in the backcountry and do their best to keep a clean camp, not let the goats destroy the bark on trees and highline them, at least for now, so that they do not risk losing any of them.
Any feedback would be greatly appreciated.
Charlie Jennings, Land Use Committee