Monitoring of the alpine ecosystem in La Sals

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The Forest Service will publish a summary of the results

Press release

To inform and support the management of the La Sal Mountain alpine ecosystems and in response to public inquiries, Manti-La Sal National Forest has prepared a summary report containing analysis of alpine data for the past five years. .

“We are concerned about the potential impacts associated with recreational use, mountain goat herbivory and climate change on La Sals alpine ecosystems,” said Manti-La Sal Forest Supervisor Ryan Nehl. . “The Manti-La Sal values ​​the Mount Peale Natural Research Area and is committed to its stewardship.”

The summary report includes a manuscript based on alpine monitoring data, which was submitted for journal publication by Jeanne Chambers of the Rocky Mountain Research Station. Conclusions from the summary and statistical analysis of five years of data include:

  • La Sal daisy showed a negative relationship between recreational and ungulate use and its probability of occurrence over time. (Although the proportional frequency of La Sal Daisy was negatively related to the use of goats in 2018, 2019 and 2020, the model estimates were not significant.)
  • The frequency of occurrence of La Sal mountain groundsel was negatively related to goat use in areas of low recreational use, which is primarily where it occurred.
  • Herbaceous plant cover, which was the dominant life form, showed an almost continuous decline over the five-year monitoring period. The use of goats had a negative effect on grass cover in areas of high recreational use. Low rainfall in several of the study years, particularly during the growing season, likely influenced the results.
  • Bare soil and pavement erosion have increased over time. There were positive relationships between this ineffective ground cover and recreational use at the end of the monitoring period, and ineffective ground cover increased with increasing goat use.

Other information included in the summary report is trail camera data, repeat photographs, the DWR Mountain Goat Management Plan, and a report submitted to Manti-La Sal National Forest by the Grand Canyon Trust.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) introduced mountain goats to the La Sal Mountains in 2013-2014. Together with DWR, the forest developed an alpine vegetation monitoring protocol and started vegetation monitoring in 2015. A joint monitoring plan was signed in 2017.

The Forest Service continues to monitor the alpine habitat of the La Sal Mountain and is working closely with agency partners, including the DWR, to create an appropriate management plan that addresses trends in the forest’s alpine resources. .

“We appreciate the relationships we have established with the State of Utah, the research station, our local communities and non-governmental organizations,” Nehl said. “We look forward to further cooperative efforts to sustainably manage these important resources.”

The mountain goat population has increased since the introduction of a total of 35 animals in 2013 and 2014. Current population estimates range from 85 to 125 animals. The DWR offered seven tags for the opportunity to hunt in the 2020 season and nine in 2021. In the fall of 2020, 18 goats were captured and collared by the DWR for monitoring purposes.

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