Court Denies Claim That Utah Needs A USFS Permit To Release Mountain Goats On Adjoining State Lands

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A court recently rejected a claim by the Grand Canyon Trust and Utah Native Plant Society that Utah was required to obtain a special use permit from the US Forest Service before Utah released mountain goats on state lands adjacent to the Manti-La Sal National Forest.  Utah planned to release 200 mountain goats into the La Sal Mountains for the purposes of hunting and viewing.  The Forest Service was concerned that the goats might adversely affect the habitat of the higher alpine regions of the adjacent national forest, which included the Mt. Peale Research Natural Area.  The Forest Service requested that Utah delay the release while it studied the potential impacts, but Utah went ahead with its planned release.  The plaintiffs requested that the Forest Service take steps to prevent any further releases, remove the existing goats and require Utah to obtain a permit for any further releases.  The Forest Service responded by stating that it cannot control Utah’s actions outside the national forests.

The plaintiffs then filed a lawsuit arguing that the Forest Service should require that Utah obtain a special use permit for its activities and should remove the existing goats from the Manti-La Sal National Forest. The court noted  that Congress and the Forest Service may have the power to regulate activities outside a national forest if they impact the forest, but that they had enacted any laws or regulations allowing them to do so with regard to Utah’s actions.  The court also reiterated the states’ historic police powers to manage wildlife on federal lands within their borders.  The plaintiffs’ argument that Utah needed to first obtain a special use permit to release the goats on land adjacent to the national forest was found to run counter to this historic state power.

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