Snowmobile fans defend right to use National Parks

WASHINGTON: Hundreds of thousands of people are being given the opportunity to kill virtual snowmobilers with virtual snowballs - all in the name of environmental safety.

WASHINGTON: Hundreds of thousands of people are being given the opportunity to kill virtual snowmobilers with virtual snowballs - all in the name of environmental safety.

"The Bear Necessities,

a video game being e-mailed to scores of Americans by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), is part of a renewed grassroots battle between environmentalists and snowmobile manufacturers and enthusiasts. At issue is whether snowmobiles' continued use will be allowed in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

In November 2000, the National Park Service declared snowmobile use would be phased out over the next three years. But snowmobile proponents filed suit against the incoming Bush administration, saying the decision was political, and not based on scientific data.

Just last month, the administration agreed to reopen the period of public comment, and revisit the decision.

Now combatants on either side have 60 days to generate as many letters as they can in their favor. The NPCA, along with a cadre of like-minded environmental groups, is sending the game (which ends with information on how to support the ban) to as many e-mail addresses as possible. Meanwhile, the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association is gathering support through the many state snowmobile associations.

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