Group asks MN high court to hear BWCA tower caseby Jon Collins, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. — An environmental group has asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to reconsider a lower court's ruling that allows AT&T to build a cell phone tower near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
The Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness challenged the tower in court in 2010, saying it would interfere with the landscape. The Hennepin County District Court agreed with them, but an appeals court overturned that ruling in June.
The 450-foot cell phone tower would be built by AT&T outside the town of Ely.
Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness Executive Director Paul Danicic said the group's petition argues that the Minnesota Court of Appeals misinterpreted the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act by ruling that the tower would only affect a small area of wilderness.
"This sets us up on a slippery slope for the Boundary Waters wilderness character because every lake in the Boundary Waters is protected as wilderness by state and federal law," Danicic said.
AT&T has argued that the tower is partly a safety issue because it would allow hikers in the wilderness to call 911 for help during emergencies.
But Danicic said that AT&T has other options.
"Why can't we do this in a way that meets the needs of residents in the area, and even wilderness users if that's what they're after, and respects the natural scenic vistas that are treasured by so many people?" Danicic said.
The group expects the Minnesota Supreme Court to respond to the petition by fall.