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Proposed Cell Tower in Scenic Sawtooth Valley Could Get Another Look

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Critics in central Idaho don't want a cellphone tower to be part of the view of the region's iconic Sawtooth Mountains.

Groups are requesting the Idaho Land Board reconsider New Cingular Wireless's lease to AT&T to build a 195-foot cell tower on a parcel of state endowment land within the boundaries of Sawtooth National Recreation Area.

Steve Botti, mayor of Stanley, said the tower would be visible from many directions and near a popular recreation site. He maintained folks want the landscape to remain the way it is.

"That's the attraction," Botti asserted. "That's a reason a lot of people come up here to the area, and it's also why the residents of the area like it so much, because it maintains that primitive, rural, pastoral setting for the scenery of the mountains."

The tower is part of a project to provide better coverage for first responders.

AT&T stated the tower important for public safety in the area.

The Idaho Land Board heard from the public on the lease in July but critics have filed a request for a contested case hearing and hope board members take the issue up again at its Nov. 17 meeting.

The Custer County CommissionSawtooth Interpretive and Historical AssociationSawtooth Society and other local stakeholders have come out against the proposal.

Josh Johnson, conservation associate for the Idaho Conservation League, said the board should explore co-locating the tower with a neighboring 95-foot CusterTel cell tower on the same parcel.

He noted the tower would not be a disruption to views solely in the daytime.

"We're also concerned about lighting for the proposed tower," Johnson cautioned. "The project site is in the middle of the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve, which is the first such designation in the U.S. and one of only 12 reserves in the world. So really hoping to avoid any dark-sky impacts here."

Botti said he hasn't heard from any locals supportive of the proposal.

"When you see that kind of situation, I think it's important to listen to the residents of the area and their concerns about something like this before going forward," Botti added.