Stanley, Idaho

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

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It’s one of the most iconic views in Idaho, the scenic view of the Sawtooth Mountains from Stanley, part of a national recreation area and a dark-sky reserve. But the Idaho Department of Lands is preparing to issue a lease for a giant, 195-foot-tall cell tower on top of a 300-foot ridge right smack in the middle of that view, over the objections of the local county commissioners, the mayor of Stanley, the Sawtooth Society, the local search and rescue operation, and hundreds of local residents, business owners and visitors.

Cingular Wireless wants to lease a tiny, 50-by-75-foot plot of state endowment land to build the tower as part of the FirstNet cellular network, which would expand first responder emergency access along with commercial use. They’d pay about $29,000 a year for 20 years for the privilege.

Last week, the state Land Board heard public testimony about the controversial proposal, and all of it was against except for the comments from the AT&T representative; the company would operate the new cell tower.

Land Board members said nothing at the close of the public testimony; it was on their agenda only as an informational item.

“We didn’t ask questions, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have some before we issue that,” Gov. Brad Little said Thursday morning, while on a tour of public health district offices around the state to talk coronavirus response. “We still have some for the staff. I’ll call ‘em on this trip, and say, ‘Don’t issue that permit ‘til we have a chance to digest it.’”

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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