The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Bill Boteler (202) 265-7337

More Cell Towers, WI-FI and Web-Cams Coming to Yellowstone

New Plan Extends Large Electronic Footprint Across Yellowstone’s Iconic Sites


A new plan for Yellowstone National Park will greatly expand cell
phone, internet and wireless web coverage in high-visitation areas,
according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
This Wireless Communications Service Plan for Yellowstone was unveiled
on Wednesday in the hope of ending a four-year moratorium on new
permits for cell towers and related facilities.

While this new plan is couched in terms such as a "limited increase"
to "protect park resources", it actually opens the door to any wireless
structures or applications not explicitly prohibited by law. The plan
signals the park's desire to eventually relocate a controversial cell
tower overlooking Old Faithful. Among the other features of the plan
are -

  • At least one new cell tower in the Yellowstone Lake area, a
    massive new tower array that will dwarf the fire lookout atop Mount
    Washburn (the highest point in the park) and expanded coverage in
    Canyon and Tower-Roosevelt. Thereafter, additional new towers could be
    approved without limit by an internal park committee lacking any
    representatives of the public;
  • Wireless internet access in
    all lodges, stores and "administrative facilities" subject to an
    attempt "to develop WiFi-free zones" in places such as the porch of the
    Roosevelt Lodge and the lobby of the Old Faithful Inn; and
  • Wireless
    web cameras would be allowed in all "developed areas of the park" and
    could be placed in the backcountry for unspecified "resource monitoring concerns."

The anticipated electronic usage is expected to be so heavy that
Yellowstone proposes "courtesy signing and protocols" to discourage
rude or inappropriate cell phone or other communications use, though it
is not clear how any guidance will be enforced or even who will pay for
the signs.

"Yellowstone now aspires to be an amusement park where communing
with nature requires a dead zone," stated PEER Executive Director Jeff
Ruch whose organization has drawn attention to the proliferation of
cell towers in national parks. "Yellowstone officials decided that
'visitor expectations' trump resource protection, in essence, placing
park values of solitude, natural sound and landscapes up for a vote."

Despite studies associating cell phone usage with auto accidents,
Yellowstone concluded cell coverage has not affected vehicular
accidents or wildlife strikes. The plan notes cell coverage's role in
emergency calls after accidents but refused to even consider an
alternative of limiting cell access to 911 calls.

plan tries to disguise that it is directly promoting purely commercial
services at the expenses of park resources," Ruch added. "While we are
happy Yellowstone has finally begun to plan, the quality of this effort
leaves a lot to be desired." The Environmental Assessment for
Yellowstone's Wireless Plan will remain open for public comment until
October 31st.

See the Yellowstone Wireless plan

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.