Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) took aim at Yellowstone National Park last week claiming violation of the parks’ wireless plan. In response to Yellowstone’s proposal to install WiFi antennas in the more developed parts of the park, PEER issued a press release raising several perceived issues, according to the Casper Star Tribune.
Among the issues cited, PEER contends that Yellowstone is extending WiFi access to areas where coverage is banned, including 400 buildings on the Register of National Historic Landmarks, within historic districts, or considered eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
“Park managers see Yellowstone’s future as a telecommunications hub at the expense of its historic values,” said Jeff Ruch, Pacific director of PEER.
Yellowstone countered PEERS’ points by issuing its own press release stating that WiFi is currently located anywhere where cellular service is allowed and several historic structures within the park already have WiFi. Calling the release distorted and filled with inaccuracies, Cam Sholly, Park Superintendent, said, “If anything, we’re more cognizant than ever of not damaging resources in this park, scenic or otherwise.”
According to park sources, Yellowstone is considering whether to allow AccessParks to install equipment to supply high-speed internet to park visitors and employees. Equipment needs include five microwave antenna locations, 12 wireless backhaul antennas ranging between three and six feet in diameter, and up to 480 transceivers of 11 inch-diameter or less installed on receiving structures.
“Yellowstone managers apparently believe that its vistas, geysers, and wildlife are no longer sufficient visitor-draws without a high-speed broadband experience, as well,” Ruch charged.
Sholly countered such claims, stating that the proposed technology is an important factor to attracting and keeping employees while helping them conduct their lives in a computerized world. “As technology evolves, we will continue to upgrade and improve connectivity within the developed corridors of the park in ways that do not negatively impact resources in the park, scenic or otherwise,” said Sholly. “There are many reasons to do it: public safety, NPS and partner operations, employee recruitment and retention, and visitor experience.”
The Park Service press release also clarified that nothing in the application asks to install towers or antennas in backcountry areas, or areas outside of current developed areas. “The proposal was delayed from moving forward earlier this year until: 1) the NPS had confidence that it would provide connectivity for employees (concessioner and NPS); 2) impacts of any installation of equipment would not harm historic structures; 3) any infrastructure necessary to support the system would be minimally intrusive and not damage resource values, scenic or otherwise.”
December 5, 2019