WASHINGTON (AP) -- The National Park Service is moving to restrict -- and possibly ban entirely in many parks -- the use of snowmobiles, government and private sources said Tuesday.
Snowmobiles currently are allowed in more than 40 parks, although conservationists have complained about their noise and air pollution, especially as their popularity has grown in recent years.
An announcement on ''measures to halt recreational use of snowmobiles'' in national parks was to be made at a news conference Thursday, the Interior Department said.
The latest actions are aimed at halting ''the escalating recreational use of snowmobiles'' within the national park system, according to the department advisory.
No additional details about the decision could be learned Tuesday.
Environmental groups and the National Parks and Conservation Association, a private park advocacy group, have argued that the Park Service for years has failed to enforce existing regulations against recreational snowmobiling at many national parks.
Under regulations dating back to the 1970s, the Park Service is required to monitor off-road vehicle use -- including snowmobiles -- and prohibit such uses if it is determined that they are causing environmental damage, said Kevin Collins of the National Parks and Conservation Association.
Instead, the Park Service has allowed virtually unrestricted snowmobile use in many of the parks ''with almost no analysis of environmental effects,'' said Collins.
The decision dealing with snowmobiles is likely to affect many of the 28 parks outside of Alaska where snowmobiling now takes place, those familiar with the issue said Tuesday. But Alaska is likely to be excluded from a snowmobile ban because parks in that state are governed by a different set of regulations.
In addition, the Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota is likely to be left out of the review because snowmobile use was specifically permitted when Congress created that park, Collins said.
The following are park units outside of Alaska where recreational snowmobiling is allowed, according to the National Parks and Conservation Association:
Appalachian National Scenic Trail; Acadia National Park in Maine; Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area in Montana and Wyoming; Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and Virginia; Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado; Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah; Crater Lake National Park in Oregon; Curecanti National Recreation Area in Colorado;
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in New Jersey and Pennsylvania; Dinosaur National Monument in Colorado and Utah; Grand Portage National Monument in Minnesota; Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming; Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in Iowa; John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway in Wyoming;
Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, Mount Rainier National Park, North Cascades National Park, Olympic National Park, and Ross Lake National Recreation Area, all in Washington state; Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial in Ohio; Pictured Rocks National Seashore in Michigan; Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado; Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in California; Saint Croix National Scenic Riverway in Wisconsin; Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota; Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota; Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana; Zion National Park in Utah.
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