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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Friday — March 19, 2004


Old Faithful cell tower is unfaithful blight

Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park is an international treasure. As the snowmobile issue illustrates, Yellowstone is increasingly under assault by the Bush administration’s policies of sacrificing environmental values to corporate profits.

Old Faithful is the latest casualty.

The Park Service allowed Western Wireless Corporation to erect a 100-foot cell tower above Old Faithful. It was originally proposed at half that height, but, through a process environmentalists don’t understand and the Park Service can’t explain, an eyesore has sprouted above the famous geyser.

This occurred without putting a public notice of construction into the Federal Register, a government publication that discloses government activities. Park spokesperson Cheryl Matthews says this oversight is under review and that "We’ve taken corrective action to assure that doesn’t happen again in the future."

This is known as closing the barn door after the horse has escaped.

The same public servant also expressed the contradictory positions that the tower proposal received a full and public environmental review, even though it was not circulated to the general public and was only provided to a few people, mainly federal employees.

This is known as doublespeak.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) contends that the tower violated the federal Telecommunications Act, National Historic Preservation Act and the Organic Act, which directs the Park Service to conserve park scenery. While park officials contend that the cell tower is needed for "emergency situations," the clandestine manner in which it was constructed calls this lame explanation into question.

This is called smoke and mirrors.

Frank Buono, a former long-time Park Service manager and PEER board member, said that "Yellowstone has plenty of other options; safety does not require that we trash Old Faithful."

This is a transparent issue of commerce, not safety.

The tower was built by and serves commercial interests. Most of us use cell phones, appreciate their convenience, and put up with appropriately placed if unsightly towers. However, Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park is not an appropriate place for one.

Theodore Roosevelt thought the National Parks were the most beautiful places on earth, and he said, "… our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred."

We agree. This Old Faithful tower is an unfaithful blight. It should be removed.

As for safety, anyone who has been to Yellowstone in summer, particularly the area around Old Faithful, can ponder the Park Service’s sincerity about safety as they see driver after driver using their cell phones while navigating the narrow twists and turns of the park’s old roads.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.