Washington, DC — The electronic tendrils of cellular signals will penetrate even deeper into the heart of Yellowstone National Park if yet another cell tower receives final approval this month. This new tower, the park’s fifth, has advanced without required public notice and in violation of law, National Park Service (NPS) policies and even Yellowstone’s own Wireless Plan, according to documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
In a May 24, 2012 letter, Superintendent Dan Wenk described the proposed Lake area tower as follows:
“The tower will be 100 feet tall and constructed of metal lattice with four tenant antennas located within the top 30 feet of the tower. Approximately 30 feet of the tower will be above the tree canopy.”
In a letter sent today, PEER asked NPS Regional Director John Wessels to veto the Right of Way for the tower slated for the center of Yellowstone Park, citing several violations and adverse impacts, including:
- Visual Impact. The tower would loom higher above the tree canopy than policy allows. In addition, the Park made no effort to require camouflage or any effort to lessen the unsightliness of a metal lattice tower and four antenna arrays jutting over the horizon. Records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that internal objections over its height were stifled;
- Soundscapes. Although the park claims it wants to provide cell coverage only to the developed area around Lake Village, the tower will send signals deep into the backcountry, meaning that the incessant chirp of ringtones will be heard even in the remotest parts of Yellowstone; and
- Lack of Required Public Notice. Contrary to the requirements of law and numerous NPS policies, the Park has not shared a single detail about the tower with the public. No press release, Federal Register notice or coverage maps were issued and no public meetings held. Internal records show plans to conduct outreach but those plans were quashed by NPS headquarters.
Ironically, Yellowstone developed a Wireless Plan to cure the egregiously poor process that led to the construction of the cell tower overlooking Old Faithful that the Park Service admits was a mistake. One purpose of the plan was to improve public involvement to avoid future Old Faithful fiascos.
“The Park Service did not follow its own plan and as a result there is less public involvement now,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the majority of public comments on the plan opposed a new tower at Lake, suggesting that park officials had no interest in public input. “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.”
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.
“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.