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Wisconsin taps snowmobile craze

Wisconsin may have lost its milk-production crown to California, and its cheese-production lead may be slipping, but there's still plenty of the white stuff.

So much snow, in fact, that the state has turned its abundant natural resource to its advantage. Among the 27 states with snowmobile trails, Wisconsin's network is the most extensive, extending more than 25,000 miles.

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The trails officially open for the season tomorrow.

"It's a very big part of northern Wisconsin culture," National Forest Service spokesman Paul Strong says. "It's a way of economic life for a lot of small towns."

Last year, 43,000 snowmobilers came from out of state, helping pump $1 billion into the economy, much of it to mom-and-pop motels and taverns.

But snowmobilers are also facing an increasing number of restrictions. As the state becomes more developed, some landowners are denying passage to snowmobiles, concerned about property values and noise. And in June, the National Park Service banned snowmobiles from 25 national parks, including Wisconsin's Saint Croix National Scenic River trail.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society