Native Alpine Plant Communities and Bighorn Sheep

Photo credit: Carly Ferro

Photo credit: Carly Ferro

La Sals Vegetation Impact Assessments, 2014-2015

Wild Utah Project partnered with the U.S. Forest Service to ground-truth rare plant distribution models in the high alpine plant communities of the La Sal Mountains, while surveying for non-native mountain goat impacts within the Mount Peale Research Natural Area with a devoted citizen scientist team. We collected baseline data on special-status plant occurrences and recorded human and mountain goat impacts , as we helped USFS collect necessary data for making informed management decisions for rare alpine plant communities.

Photo credit: Amy O'Connor

Photo credit: Amy O'Connor

studying interaction with domestic and native sheep, uintas

We are currently working on a GIS-based forage capacity model that can predict and model how much herbaceous (biomass of grasses and forbs) vegetation is available in the High Uintas Wilderness for herbivores.  This is a pressing question, since currently over 30,000 domestic sheep graze the Wilderness, and the forage capacity analysis has not been conducted since 1960's for the area. Domestic sheep pose a real threat to the native bighorns, through disease transmission. Trained citizen scientists collected vegetation data for representative forage capacity samples in allotments throughout the Wilderness Areas in 2016. 

Photo credit" Howie Garber

Photo credit" Howie Garber

literature review on impacts of non-native mountain goats

Many may be surprised to hear that the majestic mountain goat is not native to Utah.  It is native to parts of the Northern Rockies, including into Canada.  We completed a comprehensive literature review detailing the many impacts of non-native mountain goats on rare plants, fragile high elevation soils, and alpine ecosystems in places where they are not native, such as the Olympic Peninsula, and mountain ranges of Utah. The literature review concludes that if  mountain goats are not native to an area but bighorn sheep historically occurred, bighorn sheep are a more suitable choice for introduction.