Guest Commentary: We want cell phones without harm to BWCAIt is the mission of the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness to protect the wilderness character of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. But it is not our intent to prevent people who live along the Fernberg Road and the surrounding area from getting the cell phone service they desire.
By: Paul Danicic, Executive Director Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, Lake County News Chronicle
It is the mission of the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness to protect the wilderness character of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. But it is not our intent to prevent people who live along the Fernberg Road and the surrounding area from getting the cell phone service they desire.
The lawsuit we filed on June 22 to halt construction of an AT&T Mobility cell phone tower near Fall Lake was a last resort. The Friends has tried repeatedly to discuss with AT&T and Lake County the proposed tower’s impact on the Boundary Waters and possible alternatives that would expand cell service to the area while preserving the BWCAW’s wilderness character.
Starting last fall, we communicated extensively with Lake County regarding our concerns. In March, we began attempting to communicate directly with AT&T. Lake County has maintained their position that no review of the proposed tower’s impact on the BWCAW was necessary. AT&T failed to respond to any of our attempts to communicate.
The impact of this tower cannot be dismissed. At 450 feet high, and located on a ridge that would cause it to loom 600 feet over the surrounding landscape, the lighted tower would be visible for several miles, including on numerous wilderness waters, like Basswood and Fall Lake and the Kawishiwi River. This would significantly impair the wilderness experience of Boundary Waters visitors seeking the opportunity to be free of modern civilization.
Other places have dealt with the impact of cell phone towers on their rural, undeveloped nature. In Crow Wing County, local residents seeking to preserve the scenic qualities of their community have passed an ordinance prohibiting towers 200 feet high or taller.
Last fall, I sent a letter directly to as many residents of the Fernberg Road as I could, explaining our position and our desire to find a solution. Our priority then and now is to find a way to have cell phone service on the Fernberg without impairing the wilderness character of the Boundary Waters.