A less-visible cell phone tower will still provide safety.
In the end, common sense prevailed. A judge ruled this week that AT&T cannot build a giant Christmas tree of a cell-phone tower -- a 450-foot monster with flashing lights -- visible inside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
That wise Hennepin County judge, Philip Bush, said the telecommunications company could instead build a smaller-scale, unlit 190-foot tower. The smaller tower will provide similar coverage without ruining BWCA views. In other words, no beaming lights or hulking structure to spoil the wilderness or to cause harm to migratory birds.
The larger monstrosity could have been seen for up to 10 miles, with only a 17 percent coverage increase over the smaller, sensible tower. In his 58-page decision, Bush said AT&T exaggerated the benefits of the larger tower.
The company had argued that public safety would be enhanced with the larger tower, but Forest Service statistics showed that there about 16 emergency incidents annually among 250,000 visitors to the 1.1-million-acre BWCA.
This was a case of wilderness lovers vs. a corporate giant. But it also called for a bit of soul-searching on the part of Minnesotans. How much technology will we allow to infringe on our beloved wilderness?
The judge made a smart decision. A tower could be built, in part, for the safety purposes in case of emergencies -- but within reason. Technology will be within reach, if needed.
But that technology need not be a distraction to BWCA visitors who want to take in nature undisturbed.
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