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Snowmobiles top problem

HELENA - Yellowstone National Park has been named one of the 10 most endangered national parks in the country for the second consecutive year, primarily because of threats from snowmobile use, a national group announced.

The National Parks Conservation Association, based in Washington, D.C., released its second annual most endangered park list Tuesday. The list, intended to draw attention to the problems facing the nation's parks, highlights those parks most at risk by such activities as proposed landfills, urban expansion, snowmobile use and air pollution.

Yellowstone was selected this year because of threats from winter snowmobile use, which the group says has led to increased air pollution, wildlife harassment and noise. Last year, the organization listed the park largely because of sewage spills near Yellowstone Lake.

Tony Jewett, regional director of the parks association, said Yellowstone, the nation's oldest park, is in peril and the situation is getting worse. He said the park face myriad problems, including a lack of funding, but the greatest threat today comes from snowmobile use.

About 75,000 people visit the park each year on snowmobiles, mostly entering the park on the groomed road from West Yellowstone in Montana to Old Faithful.

"This isn't about being against snowmobiles, it's about protecting the health of the park for current and future generations," added Jewett. "There are real impacts occurring and we must protect Yellowstone from those impacts."

But Clark Collins, executive director of the Pocatello, Idaho-based Blue Ribbon Coalition, which favors motorized recreation, said Jewett's organization is anti-snowmobiling. He said the National Parks and Conservation Association should change its name to "anti-park access organization."

Collins said it's unfair to pin all the park's problems in snowmobile use. Rather than blame the industry, Collins said, the environmental group should work with users to try to find cleaner, quieter machines.

"They have become very anti-access," said Collins. "They want to lock up all of our public lands and keep the public out."

Jewett, however, said snowmobile use dominates the park and takes away opportunities from others who want to enjoy the area.

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