The Idaho Conservation League (ICL) and others have filed requests for a contested case hearing with Gov. Brad Little and members of the Idaho Land Board regarding a tower project. The 195-foot tall cell tower is proposed by AT&T on state lands in the Sawtooth Valley, part of the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve (CIDSR), according to ICL’s website.
ICL is concerned that the proposed tower’s location will result in significant effects on resources of the surrounding Sawtooth National Recreation Area (SNRA), established in 1972. The tower is three times taller than surrounding trees, plus it’s in direct conflict with the core values protected by the enabling legislation of the SNRA, which “assures the preservation of the area’s natural, historic, pastoral, and fish and wildlife values.”
“The City of Stanley, and all Idahoans, benefit from the protections of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, and as we face more and more development pressure, it’s important that we maintain and safeguard the area’s majestic views and dark skies,” said Mayor Steve Botti. “It’s unfortunate that the Land Board and IDL have refused to cooperate with neighbors and stakeholders who would be most impacted by this lease.”
The ICL’s letter continued with outlining concerns over whether the tower would improve service due to the area’s topography and if lighting would be required in the future. The project site is squarely in the middle of the CIDSR, designated by the International Dark Sky Association, the only one in the U.S.
“We filed for a contested hearing because the Sawtooth Valley is a special place, not just for Idahoans, but also for those who travel far and wide to take in the majesty of the Sawtooths,” said ICL’s External Relations Director, Jonathan Oppenheimer. “We encourage members of the Land Board to [consider] the broad concerns from stakeholders, the county, the city, and others, [which] at least deserve a response. Good neighbor policies should work on both sides of the fence.”
During a Land Board meeting in July, the ICL suggested co-locating on an existing CusterTel tower or finding “another arrangement to minimize impacts.” ICL requests that the Land Board address the matter at the upcoming meeting on November 17.