We the Tourists

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: Rocker and bowhunter Ted Nugent went before Congress to press the case for an insistent group of outdoor enthusiasts who say that the cordons around America's wilderness areas keep citizens out not just physically but emotionally. If Americans can't play in their wilderness, they say, they will never learn to care about it. At issue was whether to block recreational vehicles such as snowmobiles from using wilderness areas. The unrestricted use of snowmobiles in Yellowstone has led to large numbers of bison leaving the park via the snowmobilers' manicured trails only to be shot on sight by farmers and park officials at the Montana border. Environmentalists say these hearings are part of an effort by western Republicans in Congress to open up preserves to logging, livestock grazing and other commercial activities, the same ones whose states have gained the most economically from the snowmobile industry's recent explosion. While the debate over wilderness areas may be a philosophical one for purists like Nugent, in Congress it seems likely to hinge on dollars and cents.