Environmental group warns against foot race in bear country

National Parks Valles Caldera
FILE - In this Sept. 3, 2010 file photo, the East Fork of the Jemez River cuts through Valles Caldera National Preserve, N.M. The National Park Service is preparing to take over the 140-square-mile preserve under legislation signed by President Barack Obama on Friday, Dec. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan,File)

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Environmentalists are criticizing the decision to repeat a backcountry trail race after a long-distance runner was attacked by a bear last year at a National Park Service preserve in northern New Mexico.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility on Monday said the National Park Service is downplaying the threat of interactions between wildlife and participants in a 50-mile race on May 20 at the Valles Caldera National Preserve.

A mother bear with three cubs was euthanized last year by state wildlife officials after attacking and injuring a marathon runner as she raced through the Valles Caldera.

A National Park Service evaluation of this year’s race describes a continued threat of human interaction with bears and bear cubs, while noting a positive influence on recreation and public relations at the preserve