"Can You Hear Me Now?" Verizon Wants To Erect Cell Tower Near Lake In Yellowstone National Park

Is cell service in Yellowstone National Park important enough to you that a 100-foot cell tower should be erected near the Lake area in the park?

Yellowstone officials currently are reviewing a proposal from Verizon Wireless to put up that tower to serve the Lake and Fishing Bridge areas.

According to park officials, the Lake/Fishing Bridge area is the only location in the park where construction of a new cell tower was permitted under the park’s Wireless Communications Services Plan Environmental Assessment.

The proposed gray steel lattice tower and accompanying ground facilities would be erected at an existing utility site, next to existing telephone and electric lines. However, the tower as proposed would rise 30 feet above the surrounding tree tops.

Yellowstone guidelines "state that towers taller than 20 feet above the surrounding tree height require a detailed explanation of why a shorter installation is not feasible," park documents note, adding that, "The extra ten feet of height in this case avoids the need to construct additional towers in the area in the future. Designing the tower with an extra ten feet will promote site-sharing by multiple users, consistent with the 2008 Wireless Plan EA."

A crane and weather balloons were used to simulate the height of the proposed tower in order to ensure that it would not be visible from the nearby Lake Hotel, Fishing Bridge and Lake Lodge historic districts. This particular site was also selected in order to minimize the cell signal’s reach into the park’s backcountry.

Earlier this year Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility harshly criticized the proposal, saying not only had the park failed to seek public comment on the matter, but that Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk pushed the plan without adhering to guidelines in the Park Service's Management Policies, in violation of the National Historic Preservation Act, and without waiting for comments on the project from the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office.

Additional details of the project, including the categorical exclusion, a minor amendment to the Wireless Plan EA, and an electronic form to submit comments on the internet can be found online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/LakeCellularSite

Written comments may be submitted through the web site, in person or by mail to Compliance Office, Attention: Lake Cell Tower Proposal, National Park Service, and P.O. Box 168, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming 82190.

Comments must be received or postmarked by midnight, November 16, 2012.

Comments will not be accepted by phone, fax, or e-mail, and submitted responses may be made publicly available at any time.

Comments will be reviewed by the NPS prior to approving a right-of-way permit for the facility. If the right-of-way permit is approved, construction would begin later this fall or in early 2013.


Simply a terrible idea.

I vacation at Yellowstone National Park to get away from this nonsense.

Good Grief! If you don't want to be bothered by cellphones on your vacation, turn your cottonpickin' phone off. There's no reason everyone has to be without service just because you 'vant to be alone'. Lighten up, pal. They've evidently complied with NEPA, are taking public opinion and have evaluated the visual effects of the tower. They've still got airplanes flyin' over Yellowstone. Maybe we ought to stop that too....

My vote would be no. Why would anyone want to destory the natural beauty of yellowstone by putting up some manmade monstrosity.

Absolutely a terrible idea.

(Actually, upon a second read, I think I'd soften my response. The tower doesn't seem to be that obtrusive, given what's already there at its proposed location. And I would recognize that conveniences in the frontcountry are necessary to sustain enough popular support for the parks to preserve their backcountry, which I think are the soul of these places. Enough of my opinion.)

Do we really NEED a Verizon cell phone tower in Yellowstone National Park?? One of the most beautiful places in the US? Isn't the intent of the National Park Service to keep the land pristine and untouched so that future generations can enjoy the land as it always has been? Ten year-old kids in this country have never seen a landscape without a cell tower.

Please. No cell tower. Preserve the Park.

Just a note for those who oppose this cell tower: Be sure to pass your comments on to the park. You can do that at the following site:


As of this morning, the comment form hadn't been provided, but it should be coming soon. Also, the Park Service does not tally votes and go with the majority. In comments they want strong rationales for or against a project.

Ahhh! But I find the "view" of a cell tower in Yellowstone something I cannot just "ignore". There it is, in all it's ugliness, just for the convenience of - well, not myself. Does your need for cell service trump my desire for the pleasure of a pristine environment?

Nothing is sacred anymore. And to 'good grief', yes, the cell phone IS turned off, its others' phones that bother....maybe even yours. NO TOWER.

I'm not really wild about the idea but it does seem like the folks at Yellowstone have made a great effort to strike a balance. Only a few people would know its there. I don't see how having cell service is so much worse than driving on pavement to fully furnished hotels or even established camp grounds. According to the article the cell signal won't reach into the back country so people looking for a genuine middle of nowhere experience can still have it.

I have written this response before when the subject comes up. Please look at the following link and tell me if this at least would save our photos and for the most part noticing the towers right in front of us. http://www.environmentalintegration.com/cell-tower-concealment.htm I do not know why the NPS does not require this type of concealment of towers.

Mr. Crowl, exactly.

There are some towers in our neighborhood that are so well disguised I was unable to find them to take photos when a cell tower was proposed for Old Faithful. I might do better after the decidious leaves are gone from real trees around them.

David, you need to forward this to the park. I assume the concealment in no way impacts the tower's performance, and this is a reasonable concession to make for the sake of the viewshed.

I think there are a couple of problems with David's suggestion, the first being that park officials are proposing the tower be 100 feet tall so additional cell companies could share the tower down the road. Turning it into a tree would likely prevent that from happening. Secondly, it still will rise roughly 30 feet -- three stories -- above the surrounding canopy and stand out, regardless of what it looked like. How natural would that appear?

Kurt, I agree it might not look completely natural...but it would look better than the alternative. In some of the pictures from that link, the tall pine sticking up above everything is the cell tower. This company and others like it do this job to make it blend in. Maybe they would move the tower slightly to a spot where it could be more concealed?

Kurt, The First picture in the Link I provided above is a 97 foot tower. so it is close to the 100 foot tower they are proposing.

for people passing through for a day or two, im sure this makes no sense, but for us employees of the park, this would be great

For all of those who are only focused on their personal views of the image of a cell phone tower please try to imagine yourself in a situation where a family member suddenly has a heart attack or suffers an injury where immediate help may be the difference between life and death. The ability to make a life saving emergency call for help versus waiting on a Park Ranger to happen by or driving for miles in bumper to bumper traffic for help should probably outweigh your selfish preference to preserve the unspoiled beauty of nature. Is anything more important than preserving the safety of park visitors?

Turning off the cell phone is what it's all about. I do most of the time.

However for emergencies it is great to know it will work.

Cell towers can be very well hidden these days. If you look hard enough you can find a problem with anything. Pay more attention to what you go to Yellowstone for and not for things to complain about.

What would Teddy have done?

I do turn off my "cottinpickin'" cell phone. I do not take calls during my time away. There is a reason for there to be no service. Loud, overbearing blabbermouths (possibly such as yourself) are quite obtrusive to those of us who enjoy nature as it is and do not wish to listen to boors (possibly such as yourself) engaging in noise pollution.

And I'm not your "pal." Obviously.

Teddy wouldn't have had miles and miles of paved roads, flush toilets, campgrounds, hotels, emergency services, untold amounts of government administration, hundreds of thousands of cars and millions of visitors annually, etc. But then, Teddy lived in a different age. It doesn't degrade Yellowstone to make it so people find it a comfortable as well as supremely beautiful place to visit. It's available to us all in it's many guises. Full comfort for those who want such, wilderness such as John Coulter experienced (well, almost anyway) for those ambitious enough to search it out. It's why everyone loves (and hates) part of Yellowstone....

Given what having a cell phone tower has done to the experience at Old Faithful (I can't count the number of "Hey, Mabel, guess where I am" calls I've not been able to avoid overhearing), I say no.

Turning off my own cell phone isn't the problem. It's not being able to avoid hearing everyone else blab unnecessarily on theirs.

re: DD-393- We live in a relatively free country. You're free to enjoy nature as you wish as are the rest of us. You do not however have the right to impose your wishes on everyone else. No one enjoys being trapped by a boor on a cellphone while he's engaging in an activity where the guy should know enough to shut up. Simple courtesy should suffice. It doesn't because people make their own choices. I suspect that if people visiting Yellowstone were polled they would support providing cell service within the developed areas of the park while mitigating the impacts to the environment in a reasonable way. Like has been done with all the other services provided. The park belongs to all Americans, not just a few of us. "Nature, as it is" doesn't include the concrete aprons and walkways around Old Faithful, the cafeterias and gift shops or other developed facilities. Perhaps you should get off the beaten path to sites where you can experience "nature as it is". There's is a ton of it available in Yellowstone, Pal.

I see too classes of opponents here. First are those that just don't want cell phones in the park. For them, I have little sympathy. Its hard to imagine how someone could be bothered by someone talking on a cell phone while sitting with hundreds of others yacking away to each other as they are watching Old Faithful. Are you just annoyed that you can only ease drop on one side of the conversation? Get away from the crowds (which will be noisy anyway) onto the trails or backcountry and you will have your blissful park experience.

Then there are those that are bothered by the aesthetics of a tower. This objection has more merit. However, I can't imagine that a tower couldn't be located and camouflaged (ala Crowl's suggestions) such that it is totally unobtrusive. If the proponents are unwilling to make the effort to blend the tower into the landscape, then yes it should be opposed. However, denying a tower for denials sake makes no sense.

DD-393, isn't there some way to put across your ideas without insulting someone else?

May I submit that comments like this one are symptomatic of one of the greatest problems facing us all today? Incivility accomplishes nothing positive, but it sure can produce all sorts of negative results.

It appears that someone needs to play devils advocate. While the cell phone will certainly mar the natural beauty for the area it has its uses. Speaking simply as a emergency worker the time that can be saved by calling for help on a cell phone vs. sending someone to get help could potentially be the difference between life or death.

After reading all the readers' pros and cons, I have to go with putting the cell tower in place. As mentioned, it is to be placed in an area already villifying the "wilderness" with those handy roads, restrooms, restaurants, etc etc etc. Ranger Paul mentioned the most important reason of all - it could mean the difference between life and death because yes, that is more important than your "wilderness view". Legally, Yellowstone is not a wilderness area by definition, is it? I think that belongs to places like the nearby Bridger Wilderness so maybe you could hop on down there for a pristine view.

A thought: Since the object seems to be cell service for Lake and Fishing Bridge, could two shorter towers do the same thing? Perhaps the service areas would be smaller, but service would still be available in both places and the towers might not be so intrusive.

As a former EMS worker, I believe in emergency access. I HATE people jibberjabbering on their cell phones in general and have a long history of loudly confronting people with "Hey - loud and rude cell phone guy!" comments.

In this instance I would favor two things - one, a tower as close to looking like a tree as possible, and two, by word of mouth and signage, a general social discouragement of non-emergency cell phone use in the parks.

Although I do not personally own a cell phone, I am not opposed to their use for genuine emergencies.Unfortunately, it seems that the majority of the cell phone using population doesn’t utilize their phones as a tool for use when/where there is an appropriate need…Instead it has become a hideous growth connecting their hands to their ears. It is this large group of bent elbows and cocked heads that tend to ignore common courtesy, and are the ones most led to distraction while driving or walking.

In reviewing the proposed coverage map for this cell tower, its service would be reaching an area around Fishing Bridge which is mostly populated with campgrounds, hotels, improved roads, and other modern conveniences.

The questions that come to my mind are:Would the addition of this cell tower actually add to the safety benefits of the public utilizing this area of the park?Or, would the affects of cell phone use be more damaging to the public, wildlife, and natural features?(IE:People causing even more accidents and negative impacts with distracted driving.Busy texters walking off into geothermal features or surprising wildlife….etc.)

One could argue that people already are distracted in the park while using vehicles, cameras, and the like…..Some so wound up in the awe of this spectacular landscape and its wildlife, that they often forget awareness, courtesies and sensibilities.Considering that the largest percentage of visitors to Yellowstone only visit the park via paved roads and boardwalks… do we really need an additional distraction to these public areas?

If cell phone coverage were to extend over the whole of the park, (which it wouldn’t with this proposed addition of a single 100ft. tower), then I would see its benefit of safety for park staff, emergency personnel, and backcountry visitors.Providing: that continued educational awareness be imprinted upon backcountry visitors; so as not to develop a false sense of security in that the availability of a cell phone trumps common sense and preparedness in remote locations.

Therefore, in my opinion, is the addition of this single tower a true asset to current and future public safety and protection of the park’s wildlife and natural features?

Please check in at the park website and read the underlying documents before writing. Every effort is being made to minimize visual and social impact. The tower wil provide a limited service area to seasonal workers and park employees. The FB/Lake area while scenic can hardly be described a as pristine experience within the park with existing shopping, guest lodging, stores, etc. The cell service will drop off rapidly as you leave this limited area.

This is the last major infrastructure area in the park to get a tower. Notice that in the OF area the geyser has continued evevn though they have a cell. I would guess that most folks would not consider shooping or getting gas for the car a pristine experience.

Consider also that probably 600+ employees that make your FB/Lake stay what it is would like to have contact with the outside world without driving somewhere. Landlines in the are abysmal and limited, and no less intrusive.

Ranger Rick

Ps...and no I don't work at FB...no cell service for four months is too archaic. :) :)

As someone who has had a medical emergency requiring EMS care and evacuation by snow ambulance from Yellowstone let me say that the fact that we were luckily within cell phone range was invaluable to us. My husband was able to call for help without leaving me alone, laying on ice, in terrible pain with a shattered ankle and beginning to go into shock.

As much as I dislike the thought of an eyesore tower and an 'ear-sore' of people yakking, I guess I have to say the tower just might be worth it if it saves lives. Even though my situation wasn't life-threatening, like a heart attack, it brought home to us how 'medically isolated' YNP can be.