Minneapolis, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) - A Minnesota district court Wednesday issued a final ruling in a trial concerning AT&T’s attempt to place a cell tower on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
The Court agreed with the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness that the proposed 450’ tower would materially impair the scenic and other natural resources of that wilderness and violate the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act.
The decision precludes AT&T from constructing the proposed 450-foot tower, yet permits a 199-foot tower which would afford similar cell phone coverage without impairing the wilderness, as proposed by the Friends.
In its ruling, the Court rejected AT&T’s arguments regarding the impact of the proposed tower, finding that the proposed tower would “have a significant, persistent and long term negative effect on the scenic views from numerous locations within the BWCAW.”
The Court also rejected AT&T’s contention that there was no feasible and prudent alternative to the proposed erection of a single 450’ cellular tower, stating “the evidence strongly shows that there are reasonably feasible and prudent alternatives to the Proposed Tower.”
“This is a major victory for the hundreds of thousands of people who visit the Boundary Waters every year, and for the wilderness’s scenic vistas and wildlife,” said Paul Danicic, executive director of the Friends. “We hope AT&T will pursue without further delay a tower plan that expands cell service in the area for local residents, while preserving the most popular wilderness area in the country.”
The ruling was the result of a four-day trial in Hennepin County District Court the week of April 11 in a lawsuit that the Friends filed last year on behalf of the State of Minnesota. The Friends were represented by a pro bono legal team from Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi LLP, led by partners Stephen Safranski and Tom Mahlum.
“This case was not about whether AT&T could provide expanded wireless service in the area. It was about whether AT&T was required to do so in a way that avoids unnecessary harm to the scenery and ecology of one of our last great wilderness areas,” said Safranski. “We are very pleased the judge agreed that AT&T’s original tower plan violated Minnesota law in light of the available alternatives and the profound impact the proposed tower would have had.”