Watchdog group claims park service didn’t follow its own rules in approving a new location
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY —Despite some internal objections, Yellowstone National Park will move ahead with plans to install a fifth cell phone tower to provide coverage in the developed Lake Village area.
The tower could be approved sometime in the next few weeks, pending objections by a watchdog group claiming the tower plans were not subject to required public scrutiny and may violate National Park Service policy and the park’s own wireless plan.
Yellowstone developed a wireless plan in response to a poorly conceived proposal to add cellular service in the Old Faithful area. The changes were aimed at boosting public involvement.
Other provisions in the Yellowstone wireless plan, such as relocating the Old Faithful tower and cell-free zones remain unimplemented. The only parts of the plan moving ahead are expansions of cellular, Wi-Fi and web-cam coverage.
“The Park Service did not follow its own plan and as a result there is less public involvement now,” said Jeff Ruch, director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. According to Ruch, the majority of public comments were critical of the plans for the new tower for Lake Village.
“As evidenced by the abandonment of their own resource protection policies, the only thing the Park Service seems inclined to do is accommodate telecom companies,” he said.
PEER has asked the agency’s regional director to veto the right of way for the tower based on concerns about height and visibility. According to park plans, about 30 feet of the tower will be visible above the tree canopy.
PEER specifically claims the plans may violate standards for visual impacts. According to a release from the group, the park made no effort to require camouflage. Internal park records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that internal objections over its height were stifled.
Other concerns focus on park soundscapes. PEER claims the new tower will provide service in backcountry areas, “meaning that the incessant chirp of ringtones will be heard even in the remotest parts of Yellowstone.”
The group also claims the plans weren’t adequately noticed to the public.
“Wiring Yellowstone changes its character and makes it harder to find places where communing with nature cannot be interrupted by a communications device,” Ruch concluded.