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Famous national parks among 'most endangered'

Group says snowmobiles, pollution threaten preserves

By Peter Dykstra
CNN

Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park

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ENDANGERED PARKS
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A few of the nation's most famous and heavily visited parks mingle with some of its least-known on an interest group's list of "Most Endangered National Parks" published Tuesday.

The annual "top ten" list compiled by the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) includes Yellowstone, Shenandoah, and Great Smoky Mountains national parks -- three of the most popular and most accessible -- and a string of less-famous ones from Alaska to Montana to the Virgin Islands. NPCA's list includes parks that the organization's members say are most vulnerable to damage from human activity and pollution.

Yellowstone and Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska made the list because rules that restrict snowmobiles in the parks are being rolled back, according to NPCA.

Many who live near the parks consider snowmobiles key to much-needed winter tourism, but others fear that snowmobile traffic, and the resulting air and noise pollution, could harm the parks' landscapes.

NPCA's Ron Tipton said a rules change being enacted by the Bush administration "will not only overturn the decision to phase out snowmobiles, but the new policy will allow as many as 1,100 snowmobiles a day" in Yellowstone. The average at the park during the peak winter season is 850 snowmobiles per day.

Sprawl, pollution criticized

NPCA says urban sprawl threatens Georgia's Ocmulgee National Monument, home to an extensive collection of Native American archaeological sites, and Joshua Tree National Park in California, where a residential community is planned on the park border.

The Big Thicket National Preserve, located in the coastal wetlands near Beaumont, Texas, is threatened by deforestation and development just outside the preserve's borders, according to NPCA. NPCA blames air pollution from vehicles and coal-burning power plants for harming the vistas at Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains national parks.

Rounding out the unranked list: Florida's Everglades National Park, where an extensive cleanup and restoration program is said by NPCA to be mired in politics; and Montana's Glacier National Park and the Virgin Islands National Park, both of which the group says are under-funded.

NPCA dropped several parks from last year's endangered list:

Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park

• Big Bend National Park, Texas

• Federal Hall National Monument, New York City

• Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska

• Mojave National Preserve, California

• Valley Forge National Historical Park, Pennsylvania

Tipton said Federal Hall was dropped because of to a sharp increase in federal funding this year. The Mojave preserve, listed as threatened by a large water project last year, was removed when the project was canceled. At Valley Forge, Tipton said, "encouraging" negotiations are continuing to stop proposals to build homes on private land within the park.



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