The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) has dropped its proposal to use helicopters to net-gun capture and collar mountain goats and bighorn sheep in the Mt. Timpanogos, Lone Peak, and Twin Peak Wildernesses in the Wasatch Mountains.
In 2017, Utah requested permission from the Forest Service to capture mountain goats in the three Wildernesses, but because the goats aren’t a native species (UDWR introduced them for hunting some years ago), it was virtually impossible to show the project was necessary to benefit the Wildernesses. So, UDWR piggybacked bighorn sheep onto the project to make it appear it might help a native species. Wilderness Watch submitted a formal objection to this ill-advised plan.
The proposal was a slap in the face to Wilderness in its attempt to game farm a non-native species in Wilderness—which violates a fundamental tenet of Wilderness, that it remains “untrammeled by man,” to place electronic surveillance collars on wildlife to effectuate this purpose—which also violates the Act’s prohibition on installations, and by its reliance on repeated helicopter landings (up to 60), which fall under the Wilderness Act’s prohibition on motorized use.
Last month, after years of resistance from Wilderness Watch and our allies, the Forest Service announced that UDWR had withdrawn the plan, stating that the agency “believes that its needs can be addressed using other methods of sampling."
WW Objects to Wilderness Helicopter Invasion in Arizona
Wilderness Watch, Grand Canyon Chapter Sierra Club, Friends of the Sonoran Desert, and Cyndi Tuell Consultingsubmitted a formal Objection on another proposal to use helicopters to capture and collar wildlife in Wildernesses. In this case, Arizona Game and Fish Department has proposed up to 150 helicopter landings in the Four Peaks, Hellsgate, Mazatzal, Salt River Canyon, and Superstition Wildernesses to capture and collar bighorn sheep.
Wildlife should be allowed to roam free and unfettered in Wilderness, not captured, collared and electronically monitored 24-7. Wildlife research and monitoring should be conducted in a more wilderness appropriate way, through good old-fashioned on the ground observation and study. Bighorns are not endangered, nor is there anything about these populations that suggests extraordinary measures are justified.
As in the Wasatach proposal, the use of motorized equipment for routine wildlife management is antithetical to Wilderness and is banned by the Wilderness Act, except in those rare instances where such use is essential to wilderness protection or search and rescue operations. This project clearly fails to meet either exception.