Another 4G Cell Tower Slated for Remote National Park
North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt Wants Second Tower Abutting Wilderness
Washington, DC — North Dakota’s only national park is considering a new Verizon cell tower next to the state’s largest tract of designated wilderness. The plan is incompatible with Theodore Roosevelt National Park because, among other things, it would sacrifice the very values of solitude for which it was founded, according to comments filed today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
Located in the “Badlands” of western North Dakota, the park is noted for its rugged landscape and exceptional scenery. It was named for the 26th President because it is where he sought the solace of nature at critical junctures in his life.
Verizon wants to erect a 190-foot cellular tower near the site of a radio tower in the North Unit of the park which is mostly designated wilderness (about 81%). This proposal is in the scoping stage but the park predicts it will finish the environmental assessment needed for approval by “early 2015.” While the plan is unspecific about the tower configuration, Verizon is touting its 4G (4th Generation) coverage to its subscribers so that they may download music, stream movies and play interactive online games.
“Encouraging people to watch Netflix or live sports while backpacking through the wildest Badlands should have Teddy Roosevelt spinning in his grave,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch. “Extending 4G coverage into national parks, especially in designated wilderness, is anathema to the Park Service mission of preserving natural soundscapes, scenery and natural solitude.”
This would be the second cell tower within the boundaries of Theodore Roosevelt National Park; the other cell tower was built in the South Unit in 2006. Citing cell coverage in wilderness and other impacts, PEER is urging the park to either reject Verizon’s overture outright or to thoroughly analyze effects and alternatives, including:
- Distracted drivers who will now be able to text while speeding along U.S. Highway 85 or the scenic drive where the park itself warns “Drive with caution, especially at night. The park’s winding roads and abundant wildlife may yield unexpected surprises.”
- Once built, this tower will also have to accommodate any other telecom companies that come along, resulting in a growing electronic array; and
- Alternatives to limit 4G cellular penetration into wilderness and along roads.
“National parks are supposed to provide visitors the opportunity to connect with nature – not iTunes,” added Ruch, whose organization has been tracking the spread of cell coverage through the park system for the past decade. “These proposals allow private companies to use public resources to the detriment of core park values.”
Citing an opaque and somewhat misleading public notice issued right before the December holidays, PEER is also asking the park to post more detailed records and to reopen the public comment period which ends tomorrow.