Port Townsend author emerges as defender of mountain goats slated for extirpation
“Attached is a copy of a flyer I have put together in defense of the mountain goats of the Olympic Peninsula,” emailed Mike O’Connor of Port Townsend, Washington, on May 17, 2018, in response to the May 8, 2018 ANIMALS 24-7 article Goat sacrifice to begin at Olympic National Park.
“I hope to distribute the flyer over the course of the summer at the Olympic National Park headquarters, the U.S. Forest Service headquarters, and in Olympia [the Washington state capital] at the Department of Natural Resources,” O’Connor explained. “I thought you might like to see, and have, a copy.
“Wrong & cruel”
“I have no affiliations with any organizations, and am undertaking this effort solely owing to my conviction of how wrong and cruel the Park’s plan is,” O’Connor said.
Explained Goat sacrifice to begin at Olympic National Park, “An estimated 625 to 675 mountain goats whose ancestors have peaceably roamed the icy upper reaches of Olympic National Park, Washington, for 14 years longer than the 80-year-old park has existed are to become sacrificial scapegoats during the summer of 2018, and over the next three to five years.
“A recently published 284-page Mountain Goat Management Plan/Final Environmental Impact Statement recommends ‘the relocation of the majority of mountain goats [now present in Olympic National Park] to U.S. Forest Service lands in the North Cascades forests, and the lethal removal of the remaining mountain goats in the park.’”
Hundreds of mountain goats to be shot
This means that an estimated 325 to 375 mountain goats are to be lured into stockades, rocket-netted, helicoptered in slings to staging areas, and be trucked into habitat they have never seen before.
After that, as many or more mountain goats––those wary, agile, and smart enough to elude capture––are to be shot, including from helicopters.
In making these recommendations, the mountain goat “management plan” garbles history, all but ignores the effects of climate change on Olympic National Park and the North Cascades forests, and says nothing about the importance of goats as prey for pumas in the remote higher mountains of the park.
Takes it personally
Continued O’Connor, 74, “I was born and raised on the Olympic Peninsula. I have fought fires and done trail work in Olympic National Park, have planted trees and built trails in the Olympic National Forest, and have camped and hiked the Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest since childhood.
“I guess I’m just saying how personally I take all this.”
Having no previous acquaintance with O’Connor, or awareness of his work, ANIMALS 24-7 wondered who he might be to be taking on the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, USDA Wildlife Services, and the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife, in a cause mostly avoided by national animal and habitat advocacy organizations.
The Olympic National Park mountain goats have had few energetic defenders in recent years, in part because defending them successfully requires challenging widely shared ecological misconceptions written into the Wilderness Act of 1964, enshrined ever since as National Park Service policy.
Born in Aberdeen, Washington, about an hour’s drive south of the Olympic National Forest and Olympic National Forest, Mike O’Connor attended high school in Port Townsend, studied literature at Evergreen State College in Olympia, then farmed and planted trees as part of reforestation projects for 12 years in the Dungeness River Valley, just north of Olympic National Forest and Olympic National Forest, in the shadow of the Olympic mountains.
15 years in Taiwan
Abruptly changing careers, O’Connor spent the next 15 years, 1979-1995, living mostly in Taiwan with his wife Ling-Hui, a dancer and teacher of dance.
Working as senior editor/writer for the China Economic News Service and the China External Trade Development Council, O’Connor studied Chinese language and culture.
Eventually Mike and Ling-Hui O’Connor returned to Port Townsend.
O’Connor today describes himself as “a poet, writer, and translator of Chinese literature,” and happens to be a well-regarded poet, writer, and translator at that.
Author of eight published books, mostly translations of Chinese literary classics, O’Connor won a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in 2003-2004; an International Writers’ Workshop Fellowship in 2006, when he was an honorary fellow of Hong Kong Baptist University; and a Washington State Artist Trust Fellowship in 2009.
O’Connor, according to one recent book cover, “currently serves as publisher of Empty Bowl Press in Port Townsend, a writers’ co-operative, and caretakes forest land on the Big Quilcene River,” which drains the eastern part of the Olympic National Park and National Forest.
“When I find you again, it will be in the mountains”
Will this background enable O’Connor to save the mountain goats?
The title of O’Connor’s 2008 volume When I find you again, it will be in the mountains sounds promising.
O’Connor has succeeded before at a variety of difficult tasks. And he does not appear to give up easily. ANIMALS 24-7 will follow his efforts.