Cellphone Tower Proposed in Park

“Can you hear me now?”

Cell phone users in Yellowstone National Park may soon be able to answer in the affirmative if the Verizon Wireless proposal to construct a 100-foot cellphone tower in the park goes through. The tower would primarily serve Yellowstone’s Lake and Fishing Bridge areas.

Yellowstone Park Superintendent Dan Wenk told the Bozeman Daily Chronicle that the tower would offer a valuable communicative resource.

“It’s necessary as part of visitor safety,” Wenk said. “A lot of people need connection.”

The metal-lattice tower would be located on an existing utility site, the only site within park limits where cell tower construction is permitted under Yellowstone’s Wireless Communications Services Plan Environmental Assessment. This plan requires that the tower reach no more than 20 feet above nearby treetops. Other telephone and electric lines are already in the area.

Another benefit of the site: The tower’s cell reception would not reach into deep backcountry areas.

Still, groups like the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) are protesting the tower’s construction, arguing, that metal-lattice towers are not allowed in the park unless other options have been explored and proven incompatible with the project. PEER member Jeff Ruch said his attempts to get more clarity through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) haven’t helped his understanding.

“We FOIA’d the heck out of them and can’t find any explanation why,” Ruch told the Chronicle.

The National Park Service is currently reviewing the request. It will be accepting public comments until November 16. Address envelopes to Compliance Office, Attention: Lake Cell Tower Proposal, National Park Service, P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190.

If the proposal goes through, construction could begin on the cellphone tower later this fall.

by Courtney Holden Via