UPDATE Grand Teton National Park is planning to install more than one dozen new cell towers and an extensive fiber optic cable network to improve cellular and broadband services to meet mission-critical park operations, safety and emergency services, and visitor information needs and expectations in developed areas.
The park recently encouraged the public to comment on an environmental assessment regarding the improved telecommunications infrastructure in developed areas of the park and the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) responded.
In a letter to park Superintendent David Vela, PEER noted that the assessment does not provide sufficient justification for a project of this magnitude. The group outlined concerns with the plan including violating NEPA and RM-53 by failing to provide individual coverage maps and other fundamental information. They said the scope of the assessment conflicts with the purpose of the park, the EA improperly dismisses “wilderness” as an impact topic, and the public was improperly excluded from the National Historic Preservation Act’s Section 106 process.
According to the National Park Service’s website, the environmental assessment analyzes the impacts of potential locations, design, and future needs of telecommunication facilities. However, PEER accuses the overall evaluation of falling short of those from other parks who’ve had a telecom buildout, though not one as extensive as is proposed for Grand Teton.
PEER referenced a plan laid out by Yellowstone National Park in 2008-2009, that outlined the process to follow, listed mitigation measures, provided design standards, and gave examples of appropriate and inappropriate siting plans. According to the PEER letter, the Grand Teton plan does not contain these necessary planning provisions.
In PEER’s letter signed by Executive Director Timothy Whitehouse, the group noted: “we can only conclude from this (and the internal emails that we’ve reviewed) that approval of this massive new telecom infrastructure at Grand Teton is a foregone conclusion, and has been from the start.”
April 12, 2019