Stanley, Idaho

Stanley, Idaho with Valley Creek in the foreground and Sawtooth Mountains beyond.

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In my Sunday column this week, I write about how Idaho’s state Department of Lands is moving forward with plans to issue a lease for a giant, 195-foot-tall cell tower on top of a 300-foot ridge smack in the middle of one of Idaho’s iconic views, the Sawtooth Mountains as seen from Stanley, even as opposition from an array of interests increases.

In July, the state Land Board heard strong objections to the proposal, both in in-person testimony and written comments from an array of stakeholders, ranging from the mayor of Stanley to the Custer County Commission to the Sawtooth Society, Idaho Conservation League, area businesses, longtime residents and visitors, and more. Land Board members listened, but made no comments; the matter was treated as an information item only.

“It could hardly be in a worse place,” Stanley Mayor Stephen Botti told the Land Board.

A week later, Gov. Brad Little commented, “Obviously, this is one where there’s a lot of political sensitivity to it.” The governor said he had questions about the plan.

In late October, opponents filed a petition requesting a contested case hearing before the Land Board, noting that in September, the Idaho State Historic Preservation Office had officially determined that the proposed tower would result in “adverse effect to historic properties.” The opponents also asked to be placed on the Land Board’s Nov. 17 agenda.

But that agenda came out late last week, and there’s nothing on it about the tower.

“A Land Board hearing is not required to move forward,” Lands Department public information officer Sharla Arledge told the Idaho Press in an email. “The FirstNet lease is not yet finalized. The lease has been provided to the lessee. IDL is awaiting signature as well as required documentation (construction drawings). Once we receive it and it is reviewed to verify accuracy, the lease will be executed by the state.”

You can read my full column here at idahopress.com (subscription required), or pick up today's Sunday/Monday edition of the Idaho Press.

Betsy Z. Russell is the Boise bureau chief and state capitol reporter for the Idaho Press and Adams Publishing Group. Follow her on Twitter at @BetsyZRussell.

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