Wind River Closure Update
The transcripts from a recent meeting between the US Forest Service and Objectors to the Shoshone National Forest (WY) Plan, from the Pack Goat Community, (including Napga) have been published. As many of you know, the Shoshone Forest is the first, but certainly not the last, to close vast areas of public lands to pack goat use, due to their concerns with possible risk of disease transmission between domestic sheep and goats, and wild Bighorn Sheep. If you read the transcript, you will have an idea of what we Goat Packers are up against, and what we face in the future as more and more public lands are proposing to limit pack goat use--Saph

If you scroll down through the transcript, the Pack Goat Closure Objection issue transcript discussion is from Pages 24-65.
Meeting Transcript
Thanks for the posting. Was an interesting read. I still think above all else the science needs to be done. There was a lot of this and that going on between the speakers. Talk of separating the pack goat from the range goat is a weak argument at best. Yes the raising and care is a big factor in the difference between goats but as care doesnt depict the chance of disease transfer (aside from the likely hook of a goat catching the disease itself) this is a topic that should be discarded. Also the topic high lining and being watched by their owners, still not a valid argument. These opponents against pack goats (as mentioned) will always believe there is a threat of contact. Owners sleep away from their goats. This leaves the entire night open to close contact. I would of suggested a restriction to penning goats in a trailer at night. This would eliminate all possible contact. But aside from all the discussion, what it all boils down to is this.

Can a goat (regardless of pack, meat, dairy, range) pass a disease/sickness onto a wild sheep? This is the only thing that needs to be addressed and answered. And if the answer is yes, then pack goats should be restricted unless a no contact method can be established OR a test can be given prior to an outing can be done. Pack goat people are as a whole, nature lovers and wouldnt put at risk that which we love. So our focus should be on the science alone.
Pack Goat Prospects For Sale.

S.E. Washington (Benton City)
Wow, well done. It seemed like a lot of energy in that conversation. I pray that some part of what you all said was heard.
You guys are awesome. I hope you know how many of us little guys are out here who really appreciate all of the effort and sacrifices you are dealing with on all of our behalf.
Thanks for attending this meeting and sharing the transcript. I sure hope we can get something worked out. Thanks so much for going to bat!
Very interesting read. Thank you Saph, Larry, Andrew, and others for all your hard work to give a voice to the rest of us! I am very interested in the study here in Eastern Washington. I also am a hunter and taxidermist, and don't want to pose any risk to the bighorns. I can understand their fear for that core herd, but I fear they will use that plan as the standard for the rest of the west. The measures we are willing to make will not place the bighorn herds in danger. Keep up the good work!
Dave--I appreciate your comments. With respect to your statement--"Can a goat (regardless of pack, meat, dairy, range) pass a disease/sickness onto a wild sheep? This is the only thing that needs to be addressed and answered":

There is much research that still needs to be conducted on this issue. Margaret Highland (WSU) is currently doing some fascinating studies on transmission between domestic sheep and Bighorns. However, as we all know, very little has been done to include goats, to date; hopefully, goats will be addressed in the near future. In addition, scientists are calling other livestock AND wildlife species into question, including domestic cattle and mule deer, with respect to disease transmission. But the research seems to indicate that these diseases and the mechanisms of transmission are so complex and difficult to understand that the decision to close public lands to domestic sheep and goats (including pack goats) may be overly-simplistic. Which brings us to the subject of "risk."

RISK is a science, in and of itself, particularly when it comes to decision making. "Qualitative" Risk Analysis, which the Shoshone used to base their decision to close most of the Wind River Range to Pack Goats, is just that--"Qualitative," and inherently subjective. The goal in the Shoshone National Forest Plan is to maintain "LOW RISK of disease transmission from domestic sheep and domestic goats to wild bighorn sheep within core bighorn sheep ranges." At the meeting in Cody, the Wild Sheep folks were saying they want as close to "zero risk" as possible. This was NOT the goal stated in the Forest Plan. So, somewhere in the process, the goal shifted and the Forest Service needs to be held accountable as to how and why they justified that shift. If the Forest Service truly wants "zero" risk, they need to change the Forest Plan, and document how they are going to achieve this "zero risk" goal, and whether or not it is even realistically achievable. Most importantly, they need to document how Pack Goats are a significant risk factor, given all the independent variables that have to occur in order to transmit disease from pack goats to wild sheep. These variables include the ("abysmally low") number of pack goats that pass through wild sheep habitat in the Winds, probability of goats escaping, probability of contact with wild sheep, probability that a goat has a transmittable disease, and so forth. These are independent variables, so they need to be treated as such, when quantifying total risk. Each time you multiply one of these independent variables by another, the overall risk decreases. If you do the math, I think you will find that this risk is going to be extremely low. Not "zero," but pretty close.

I am concerned that other Land Use Plans (including the Blue Mountains in Oregon and Washington) are using similar "qualitative" Risk Analyses, without taking a "hard look" at the robust, quantitative science this issue requires, and with respect to the actual risk that Pack Goats pose, rather than a "perception" of that risk.

We are willing to collaborate in developing mitigation measures to bring risk of contact between our goats and bighorn sheep as close to zero as possible. But we object to the idea that Pack Goats are continuously lumped with domestic sheep and goats when, to date, very little scientific research justifies this. More importantly, the Risk Analysis that the Forest Service used to support or justify the decision to close the Wind River Range to Pack Goats is flawed and needs to be redone. The bottom line is that our pack goat numbers are so small, especially when combined with numerous other independent risk variables, that we feel our marginal contribution to overall risk is insignificant. Again, the Shoshone National Forest's goal was to maintain "low risk." If they wanted "zero risk," they should have stated it in the Forest Plan. They did not--Saph.
Good insight Saph. And having raised goats the better part of my life and the situation I started off in, I have pretty good insight into domesticated goat and sheep diseases and their transmissions. There are things like JOHNES that is a ruminant only disease. Meaning animals that chew cud (sheep, goats, cows...) with multiple stomachs are effected and easily transfer across difference species. CASEOUS LYMPHADENITIS is another disease that is easily passed from sheep to goat. Then there are things like CAPRINE ARTHRITIS ENCEPHALITIS in goats / Ovine Progressive Pneumonia Virus (OPPV) in sheep that can jump the species barrier but have a hard time doing so and have to mutate a little to do so.

So when you talk about the science of it I completely understand and agree. The fact that there is research going on is great but it could be several years before we get the answers we seek. So determining the risk and how to manage it maybe our only path for now. But in assessing the risk, its our responsibility to error on the side of caution. Knowing what I know about domesticated goats and sheep. Knowing that ailments can be passed from deer to goats, I am concerned that wild sheep may indeed be at risk. Even if that risk is as small as the odds of winning the lottery. Thus my comment on the need to know the science.

As I read the transcript there were a few comments that didnt sit well with me and those were some of the suggested steps we take to prevent transmission. As I mentioned, the high line risk. This maybe the optimum time where transmission could happen. As we have all heard the stories of pack goat people filling their tags in their camp because an elk or a deer came in to check out the goats. Whats to stop a wild sheep from doing the same? The counter comments as to them not having any control over the wild sheep was a valid point. So the suggestion that high lining and or the light sleeping of goat owners holds no weight and should be discarded. I believe full containment of goats in camp either in a trailer or behind a portable electric fence like what Nancy uses are the best ways to eliminate the risk. And thats what our speakers went into this meeting saying. The only way we will keep these areas open to goats is to go into these meetings with a rock solid plan of risk prevention. Something that proves the minimal risk we have been stating. Most of the suggestions do not directly address the out in the woods risk. Permits and GPS and bonded goats, although good, do not eliminate the risks enough in the eyes of our opponents. And we have to prove to them we are willing to do whatever it takes until the science has a chance to give the answers we seek.

Maybe we need an open discussion thread to discuss ideas on how we can eliminate every possible risk we can. I think if we do this and present a solid risk prevention plan that they will not be able to poke holes in, we might find ourselves on more solid ground.
Pack Goat Prospects For Sale.

S.E. Washington (Benton City)
I was under the impression part of the study at WSU included a controlled environment introducing goats to bighorns apart from the sheep. I had also heard several months had passed with daily contact between the goats and bighorn coexisting in the same pen with no sickness. To be clear I can't confirm this only hearsay, so take it for what it is worth. I personally like the electric fence set up like what Nancy has, for predator purposes as well as ensuring the no contact with wildlife. I acknowledge it is possible though less likely for a goat to pass sickness to bighorn, but there is no way a vet certified packgoat, contained at night, and with it's owners in the day will pass anything to the bighorns. What it will take is for packgoat enthusiasts to stay unified and consistent in our prevention methods.

I guess I should not say "no way" our packgoats can pose a risk, but the measures we are willing to take by far lower the risk to the point I do not think it's reasonable to keep us out of the forest. Again, I can see the logic about the concerns with the core herds in the Shoshone range. Is it possible to concede the one are without conceding all the western ranges?
Dr. Tom Besser is conducting the study currently at WSU. Really nice guy and enjoyable to talk with. I have called and have spoken to him on two different occasions about his commingling of goats and Bighorn Sheep. Bottom line so far---- he is testing for a transmission of a bacteria called mycoplasma omnivorie or something like that. MOV for short. Smile He told me that if the goat tests positive for MOV, it passes to the sheep. And if the ewes are pregnant, the lambs all die. If the goats test negative, the sheep experience no ill effects at all and show no transference of any bacteria, and hence, aren't getting pneumonia. So it sounds to me, so far, that if we can nasal swab test our goats to see if they test + or -, then take a health certificate in with us and make this requirement a part of the Best Management Practices that we wrote two years ago. All this is just talk for now, we will find out more info when the results are peer reviewed and published.

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