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Idaho land board dismisses request to quash cell tower plan

Idaho

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STANLEY (AP) — The Idaho Board of Land Commissioners has turned down a request from two Idaho nonprofits to contest a proposed lease that would allow a 195-foot cellular tower to be built in the Sawtooths as part of the nationwide first responders’ network, FirstNet.

The board, which includes Gov. Brad Little and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, voted unanimously Tuesday to reject the contested case appeals from the Idaho Conservation League and Sawtooth Interpretive and Historical Association, The Spokesman-Review reported.

“We’ve looked at the issues raised in the contested case … and those issues are largely consistent with the written public comments that the board has received throughout this process,” attorney Darrell Early told the board when presenting the appeal.

Early heads up the natural resources division of the attorney general’s office.

Since January, conservation groups and residents in the Stanley area have raised concerns about the proposed tower, which would be built by telecommunications company AT&T. Opponents say the tower would mar the natural beauty of the Sawtooth Valley and popular nearby Redfish Lake.

“The Sawtooth Society strongly opposes granting this lease. If the cell tower is installed as planned, it will tragically violate a central value of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area by degrading and unacceptably impacting the landscape and viewshed,” said Kathryn Grohusky, executive director of the Sawtooth Society, which has criticized the proposed lease.

Several individuals have suggested co-locating the AT&T infrastructure on an existing 100-foot cellular tower – operated by local telecom company CusterTel – on the same parcel.

Early said the board received 67 pages of written comments in opposition to the tower since its last meeting on the lease in July. The Idaho Department of Lands, however, which is under the land board’s direction, is not required to seek public comment for endeavors on its state-managed endowment lands. Instead, the department is tasked with using those endowment lands to maximize revenue to its beneficiaries.

Jonathan Oppenheimer, the Idaho Conservation League’s external relations director, said the group is not done contesting the matter.

He said AT&T will likely submit an application to FirstNet regarding the tower buildout that will be subject to FCC regulations – including an environmental analysis and potentially an environmental impact statement. The Idaho Conservation League plans to submit a petition for environmental review to FirstNet when AT&T’s lease is finalized by the Idaho land board.

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