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Briefs: Idaho land board rejects appeal of cell tower lease in Sawtooth Mountains

FILE – This June 1, 2012 file photo shows the Sawtooth National Recreation Area near Stanley, Idaho.  (Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman via AP)
FILE – This June 1, 2012 file photo shows the Sawtooth National Recreation Area near Stanley, Idaho. (Darin Oswald/Idaho Statesman via AP)

The Idaho Board of Land Commissioners has turned down a request from two Idaho nonprofits to contest a proposed lease that would allow a 195-foot cellular tower to be built in the Sawtooths as part of the nationwide first responders’ network, FirstNet.

The board, which includes Gov. Brad Little and Attorney General Lawrence Wasden, voted unanimously Tuesday to reject the contested case appeals from the Idaho Conservation League and Sawtooth Interpretive and Historical Association.

“We’ve looked at the issues raised in the contested case … and those issues are largely consistent with the written public comments that the board has received throughout this process,” attorney Darrell Early told the board when presenting the appeal.

Early heads up the natural resources division of the attorney general’s office.

Since January, conservation groups and residents in the Stanley area have raised concerns about the proposed tower, which would be built by telecommunications company AT&T. Opponents say the tower would mar the natural beauty of the Sawtooth Valley and popular nearby Redfish Lake.

“The Sawtooth Society strongly opposes granting this lease. If the cell tower is installed as planned, it will tragically violate a central value of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area by degrading and unacceptably impacting the landscape and viewshed,” said Kathryn Grohusky, executive director of the Sawtooth Society, which has criticized the proposed lease.

Several individuals have suggested co-locating the AT&T infrastructure on an existing 100-foot cellular tower – operated by local telecom company CusterTel – on the same parcel.

Early said Tuesday the board received 67 pages of written comments in opposition to the tower since its last meeting on the lease in July. The Idaho Department of Lands, however, which is under the land board’s direction, is not required to seek public comment for endeavors on its state-managed endowment lands. Instead, the department is tasked with using those endowment lands to maximize revenue to its beneficiaries.

Jonathan Oppenheimer, the Idaho Conservation League’s external relations director, said in a phone interview that the group is not done contesting the matter. He said AT&T will likely submit an application to FirstNet regarding the tower buildout that will be subject to FCC regulations – including an environmental analysis and potentially an environmental impact statement. The Idaho Conservation League plans to submit a petition for environmental review to FirstNet when AT&T’s lease is finalized by the Idaho land board.

“While we’re disappointed that the land board didn’t take up this contested case … there is a required process moving forward, and we are hopeful that working with AT&T and FirstNet and other stakeholders that we can find suitable alternatives that can satisfy the Department of Lands, satisfy AT&T, satisfy local needs and concerns and result ultimately in revenue being paid to the Department of Lands endowment,” Oppenheimer said.

If approved, the lease would be in place for 20 years with a base rate of $29,851.31 per year, according to the Department of Lands.

Fifth-, sixth-graders ski, snowboard free in Idaho

Fifth- or sixth-graders who love to ski or snowboard or those who’d like to learn can take advantage of the free skiing program offered by Ski Idaho. The Idaho Peak Season Passport lets fifth-graders ski or board three days for free at resorts throughout the state and offers sixth-graders two days free at most mountains. It is open to any child from any state or country – not just Idaho kids.

Complete the application available online at skiidaho.us/passports ($18 processing fee) to order a passport . Ski Idaho will email a passport that can be printed out prior to hitting the slopes, or use a smartphone while walking up to the ticket window. Children must have a parent or guardian present to use the passport, and it must be shown at the resort to receive the lift ticket.

North Idaho participating resorts include:

  • Lookout Pass (skilookout.com
    • )
    • Schweitzer (schweitzer.com
      • )
      • Silver Mountain (silvermt.com
        • )

        Some resorts are fifth-grade only and blackout dates may apply; visit skiidaho.us/passport-blackout for details.

        Mt. Spokane urges skiers to check before heading out

        As the new year approaches and the coronavirus continues to plague communities, Mount Spokane Sno-Park, including Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Area, has experienced crowded conditions and full, chaotic parking lots.

        Washington State Parks may need to close parts of the park intermittently as parking lots reach capacity.

        Before heading out, call the park at (509) 238-4658 for updates and check the park’s web page for alerts, even en route to the Sno-Park: parks.state.wa.us/549/Mount-Spokane.

        The park recommends a Plan B in case lots are full.

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