Editorial: Judge made right ruling on BCWA cellphone towerPublished 9:51am Friday, August 5, 2011
Hennepin County Judge Philip Bush made the right decision Wednesday when he ruled that a cellphone tower on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area would hurt the “scenic and aesthetic resources” of the BCWA.
Wilderness isn’t just some faded novelty of the olden days. It is an actual federal designation with laws to support the preservation of these treasured landscapes. And the Wilderness Act is considered one of the most inspiring pieces of legislation on the books:
“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”
Wilderness areas limit the size of groups, disallow motors, disallow many mechanized devices (such as bicycles), have no roads and generally are meant to be not modern at all. Here is a passage from the start of the Wilderness Act:
“In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition, it is hereby declared to be the policy of the Congress to secure for the American people of present and future generations the benefits of an enduring resource of wilderness.”
Sure, the cellphone service would have helped paddlers who face emergencies, but that’s the antithesis to the concept of wilderness in the first place. Emergencies in wilderness areas are not handled like emergencies elsewhere. Being in a designated wilderness is sort of like climbing a mountain. The people who do it take the accompanying risks.
The 450-foot tower and its blinking light would have been visible deep in the heart of the BCWA. If we allow modernity to creep into our wilderness, it desecrates the spirit of preservation in which the Wilderness Act was created.
Bush did allow a smaller tower without a light, which surely can serve the residents of Ely in the way they sought. The judge, therefore, found a good means to satisfy both sides in the debate.