Gene Bryan, director of Wyoming's Travel Commission, is sending media kits to 3,000 travel writers throughout the world. Those kits contain a fact sheet on what the fires did and didn't do, a story on the park's recovery program, and an outline of the rehabilitation work.

Also being planned are nature trails that will lead visitors through burned and unburned areas.

In the weeks to come, television stations in the nation's major markets will receive video newscasts produced by Montana depicting Yellowstone's rebirth. Tour operators also will be escorted through Yellowstone by Wyoming officials to show them the park is still an attractive destination.

Wyoming just recently started its spring travel campaign in Midwestern markets, with radio and television spots that are generating several thousand inquiries a day, according to Bryan.

While nature is slowly healing the blackened wounds left by 1988's forest fires that involved 988,925 acres of the 2.2-million-acre park, vivid images of 200-foot-tall walls of flame that were projected into America's homes by the networks have crippled Yellowstone's magical lure.

"We are certainly fighting an image problem, basically because of some of the coverage of fires last summer," agreed Yellowstone spokeswoman Joan Anzelmo. "The more sensationalistic coverage led the public to believe that Yellowstone simply burned up. That there was nothing left.

"And, of course, that's very far from the truth. The park is open, it's alive, it's well," she said.

In the park, winter's thick blankets of snow now are slowly melting, uncovering a mottled landscape - black in some places and green in others. Lining some sections of the Grand Loop that circles through Yellowstone's interior are blackened skeletons of once majestic lodgepole forests.

In some areas where you once couldn't see beyond the green needles on the first phalanx of pines, your eyes now can scan up hillsides of charred tree trunks.

But in other areas of Yellowstone the snowmelt is also revealing sprouting wildflowers, grasses, forbes and lodgepole seedlings that got their start when last year's forest fires seared open pine cones and by doing so scattered thousands of seeds throughout the forests.

But the perception that "Yellowstone is gone" still lingers in some minds. It's a perception Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and the National Park Service have been fighting since snows late last year finally doused the flames.

"The visitors as they travel the roadways of the park will certainly drive in areas that burned and they'll drive in areas that did not burn," said Anzelmo. "And there are long stretches of road where there's no evidence of the fires of last summer.

"The other thing that's happened, this winter we are experiencing a higher winter mortality, natural winter mortality in wildlife," she added. "And that's been making the headlines. We just want to remind people that even despite this winter mortality that there will be abundant wildlife to view this summer, both newborn calves of bison and elk and the other young of the other species."

Combined, the image of a blackened Yellowstone, the high winter mortality among the park's northern elk herd, and Montana's hunting of bison that roam north of the park's boundary have created a publicist's nightmare.

Park biologists agree some of the elk deaths can be traced to starvation stemming from the burning of winter forage by last year's fires. But they also point out that recent mild winters and lush summers let some elk live beyond their normal years and so the return to a typical Yellowstone winter was bound to kill large numbers of the ungulates.

"I call it the triple whammy," said Steve Shimek, a spokesman for Travel Montana, a branch of that state's Commerce Department. "I think that the fires, the elk die-off and the buffalo hunt (designed to halt the spread of a disease that makes domestic cattle abort their calves) have brought about a tremendous amount of thought, in the media, of what a park is.