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Associated Press Judge allows for-profit collection of living organisms

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK - A first-ever agreement that allows for-profit collection of living organisms in Yellowstone National Park, or any national park, does not violate any conservation mandate, a federal judge has ruled.

U.S. Judge Royce Lamberth in Washington, D.C., upheld the agreement allowing Diversa Corp. of San Diego to explore the park's geothermal features and share its profits with the park, National Park Service officials said.

The Edmonds Institute, International Center for Technology Assessment, Alliance for the Wild Rockies and a Montana resident sued to block the so-called bioprospecting agreement.

They claimed it was not in the public interest and shared far too little of the profits with the park. They also argued that it violated the park's obligation to protect all natural resources.

Yellowstone officials have refused to say just how much the park will receive under the deal. The Billings Gazette has reported the company could pay just 0.5 percent of any profits.

John Varley, director of the park's Center for Resources, called the agreement a thoughtful and rational approach to park research.

"It's good for science, good for parks and good for the citizens of our country," he said in a statement issued this week.

The park is undertaking an environmental analysis of bioprospecting, as ordered by Lamberth last year.

Hot springs microbes from Yellowstone already have provided a key ingredient of DNA fingerprinting. Diversa searches Yellowstone springs for microbes that produce natural enzymes useful in industrial processes.

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