Wilderness: 1, Cell Tower: 0

Posted by MNAngler On August - 4 - 2011

The wilderness won a battle yesterday thanks to the decision of a Minnesota judge. AT&T will not be allowed to build a 450 foot cell tower in the middle of the BWCA. Instead, it will be a measly 199 feet. AT&T claims the shortened tower will cover 1/16th of the area a taller tower would, but actually, it will only be a 17 percent decrease.

Full story: Judge says no to 450-foot cell tower near BWCA, but 199-foot tower OK

For years, people have debated whether or not cell service should be allowed in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). Proponents for it say it’s a safety issue. Those against it say technology has no business being in the wilderness. Do you really need to be updating your Facebook status at the campfire? I think not.

Safety is a valid concern, but people have been able to deal with it for a hundred years or more. The problem is, it can be a fine line between a true emergency and a perceived one. Getting lost, for instance, is not a true emergency and lodge owners don’t want to be fielding calls from those trying to get directions:

“Hello, BWCA Lodge.”

“I’m lost.”

“Can you describe where you are?”

“Well, there are a lot of trees…”

Personally, I’ve been torn. I understand both sides of the argument. At my father-in-law’s place on the Gunflint Trail (on the East side of the BWCA), it would be nice for my father-in-law to not have to buy phone service each summer. The phone number changes from year to year and it’s a hassle to start up and take down. Then again, I look forward to not being able to be reached by work.

Technology will eventually intrude on the wilderness. It’s inevitable. But it’s probably not a bad idea to put it off for as long as we can.

3 Responses to “Wilderness: 1, Cell Tower: 0”

  1. Tom Harkman says:

    Hate it. Period. Getting ‘lost’ is part of the fun. I’d hope people leave their devices OFF while in the park, but I won’t count on it.

  2. Beth Parker says:

    I don’t understand what difference the height makes. It’s still a tower. Would a taller tower be any more intrusive than a short one?

    • MNAngler says:

      The FAA requires that any tower 200 ft and above needs lights to warn nearby aircraft. By keeping the tower under 200 ft, the lights won’t be necessary and won’t disturb the night sky. In the daylight, however, it just won’t tower above the trees as much.

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