Yosemite National Park: Illegal Permitting of Cell Towers

The  Office of Inspector General in the U.S. Department of the Interior conducted a National Park Service audit of cell towers in response to complaints about illegal cell towers in Yosemite National Park, completed July 19, 2019. Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) prompted this inquiry. Their Press Release from July 30, 2019 is titled CELL TOWER MIASMA PERVADES NATIONAL PARK SYSTEM

 Update 11/5/19

The audit, titled “The NPS Needs To Improve Management of Commercial Cellular Facilities’ Right-of-Way Permits and Revenues”, found “that the NPS was not properly collecting and accounting for revenues for commercial ROW permits, including the collection of land use fees and cost recovery. Overall, the management of the commercial ROW program and the implementation of governing NPS policy need improvement.”

Systemic National Park Service Noncompliance and Lack of Oversight 

The report confirmed those problems and determined they were systemwide. For example, “at Grand Teton National Park (GRTE) and YOSE, land use fees and cost recovery were deposited into the same account as other special use permit revenues. Both GRTE and YOSE did not have support documentation for the cost recovery retained at the parks for commercial ROW permits.”

Conclusions to the Report:

  • Widespread noncompliance with NPS rules requiring reviews of potential adverse impacts on environmental and cultural resources;
  • Failure to even bill for, let alone collect, revenue owed to NPS by telecoms; and
  • Lack of oversight to the extent that parks cannot accurately report what they have permitted and nationally the NPS does not inventory what cell facilities have been built.

Six Recommendations for Improvements at National Park Service

We recommend that the NPS:

  • Prepare and issue bills for collection to all ROW permit holders for the collection of land use fees to ensure that accurate and timely payments are receive.
  • Determine the appropriateness of unpermitted commercial cellular facilities on NPS land; if any are determined to be inappropriate, take the necessary steps to either issue ROW permits or remove the facilities
  • Document all employee labor and related costs associated with individual ROW permits to ensure the correct cost recovery amounts are retained at the park
  • Develop policy to ensure that the commercial cellular facility inventory data are current, complete, accurate, and updated on a timely basis
  • Complete the inventory of cellular facilities in parks
  • Develop an action plan to ensure compliance with RM-53; the plan should include the NPS conducting annual or periodic program or internal control reviews of the regional office and park ROW operations to ensure compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and policies

Cell Towers and Harmful Effects on the Environment: No discussion Allowed

Unfortunately due to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, there can be no consideration for denial based on environmental effects of cell towers, despite scientific evidence to the contrary. This is especially concerning with the rollout of a tsunami of cell antennas with 5G and IoT technology as well as the growing scientific evidence of harm from Radiofrequency radiation emitted from wireless devices and cell towers.

Evaporating National Park Staff Levels as Visits Rise

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility notes a 20% decline in National Park staffing levels that are already too low to monitor and enforce laws protecting our National lands. In their article EVAPORATING NATIONAL PARK STAFF LEVELS they note  a steep decline in the workforce since 2011, that is charged with looking after 85 million acres of land. PEER states,  “As both the number of parks and visitation has swelled over the past decade, the number of full-time staff employed by National Park Service (NPS) has been in steep decline, falling by more than 3,500 or 16% since 2011, according to agency figures released today … These growing shortfalls compromise the ability of the parks to protect both their resources and the visiting public…. These figures reflect a serious erosion in our ability to safeguard some of the most iconic areas in the United States for current and future generations,” stated PEER Executive Director Tim Whitehouse, pointing out that Trump administration budget proposals call for even deeper NPS staffing cuts.”

Should Yellowstone Have 484 New Cell Towers? Comments due Nov 29, 2019

The East Idaho News reported on Nov 14, 2019, that the National Park Service is seeking public comment on a proposal to install indoor and outdoor Wi-Fi networks and cell towers throughout Yellowstone National Park’s developed areas for park visitors and employees.

De-stressing Versus Distraction and Disconnection with Digital Wireless Devices 

The Park service page invites you to “Experience Your America”, however, if you wish for you and your children to have an undistracted and stress reducing experience in the great outdoors, you may soon not have a choice. The science of addiction and distraction with cell phones is now supporting banning cell phones in schools. California is the first state to pass AB 272 (2019), a law to reduce or eliminate cell phones during school hours due to a decline in test scores, increase in mental health problems as well as distraction.  In addition if you or your children suffer from the growing condition of  electrosensitivity, you will not be able to stay in park accommodations. Scientific evidence is mounting that this is condition should be considered a disability according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). 

If the permit is approved, this would allow for:

  • The installation of up to 484 small (10 x 10 inch or 7 inch diameter) antennas on employee housing and visitor lodging facilities at Canyon Village, Grant Village, Lake Village, Mammoth Hot Springs, and Old Faithful.
  • The Park Service website states, “Four hundred thirteen (413) of the impacted buildings have been identified as either eligible for inclusion on the NRHP, as contributors to historic districts, or as National Historic Landmarks. The Historic Properties identified include Canyon Lodge, Lake Hotel, The Lake Hamilton Store, 78 Lake Hotel Guest Cabins, 64 Lake Lodge Guest Cabins, Seagull Dormitory, Mammoth Hotel, 97 Mammoth Guest Cabins, the Mammoth Dining Hall, Lodgepole Dormitory, Juniper Dormitory, Spruce Dormitory, Old Faithful Inn, Old Faithful Lodge, 161 Old Faithful Guest Cabins, Laurel Dormitory, and Columbine Dormitory.”
  • Coverage could eventually extend to other developed areas such as Norris, Madison, and Bechler for administrative and employee use.

If you have any comments on effects to historic properties, please submit them through this NPS ParkPlanning website by clicking the “Open for Comment” link at the left of this page.  Contact Information
Morgan Warthin, (307) 344-2015

Link to provide comments- https://parkplanning.nps.gov/projectHome.cfm?projectId=89100


From Physicians for Safe Technology

Environment and Wildlife Effects

Reviews on Wildlife

Balmori (2015)  notes in his latest review “Current evidence indicates that exposure at levels that are found in the environment (in urban areas and near base stations) may particularly alter the receptor organs to orient in the magnetic field of the earth. These results could have important implications for migratory birds and insects, especially in urban areas, but could also apply to birds and insects in natural and protected areas where there are powerful base station emitters of radio frequencies. Anthropogenic Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields as an Emerging Threat to Wildlife Orientation. Alfonso Balmori. Science of The Total Environment. 518-519:58-60 · July 2015. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/273121908_Anthropogenic_Radiofrequency_Electromagnetic_Fields_as_an_Emerging_Threat_to_Wildlife_Orientation 

The Cucurachi Review (2012) of 113 peer-reviewed publications revealed, “In about two thirds of the reviewed studies ecological effects of RF-EMF was reported at high as well as at low dosages. The very low dosages are compatible with real field situations, and could be found under environmental conditions.” A review of the ecological effects of radiofrequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMF). Environment International. Cucurachi et al. 51C:116-140 · December 2012. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/233974663_A_review_of_the_ecological_effects_of_radiofrequency_electromagnetic_fields_RF-EMF

Panagopoulos  (2013) explains in his review of experimental data, how living organisms are in harmony with terrestrial and magnetic fields, which effect their cellular processes and even circadian rhythms.  Interference of this delicate interaction with human wireless technology can adversely affect the health and well-being of ecosystems. MOBILE TELEPHONY RADIATION EFFECTS ON LIVING ORGANISMS. Dimitris J. Panagopoulos and Lukas H. Margaritas.Department of Cell Biology and Biophysics, Faculty of Biology, University of Athens, Greece.

The Saravanamuttu Review (2013) found that harm to the environment is demonstrated but there are no long term studies to support safety of this technology. Sivani and Sudarsanam state, “Based on current available literature, it is justified to conclude that RF-EMF radiation exposure can change neurotransmitter functions, blood-brain barrier, morphology, electrophysiology, cellular metabolism, calcium efflux, and gene and protein expression in certain types of cells even at lower intensities.” They note that these studies are important to identify the frequencies, intensities and durations that are safer, enabling the use of wireless technology while ensuring the health and sustainability of the environment. Impacts of radio-frequency electromagnetic field (RF-EMF) from cell phone towers and wireless devices on biosystem and ecosystem—A review. Biology and Medicine. 4(4):202-216 · January 2013. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/258521207_Impacts_of_radio-frequency_electromagnetic_field_RF-EMF_from_cell_phone_towers_and_wireless_devices_on_biosystem_and_ecosystem-A_review

A 2010 review paper from the Ministry of Environment and Forests in India reviewed all available peer reviewed research on the impacts of wireless radiofrequency (RF) on living organisms, including birds and bees, plants, animals and humans.  Of 919 articles collected 593 showed adverse impacts. In each category of organism, over 60% of the research indicated harm to that biological species. The report looked at 5 mandates * Review literature * Assess impacts of increasing cell towers * Suggest mitigation of effects * Formulate regulatory guidelines for installation of cell towers * Identify research gaps.  Report on Possible Impacts of Communication Towers on Wildlife Including Birds and Bees. Ministry of Environment and Forest. India. (2010)  http://www.moef.nic.in/downloads/public-information/final_mobile_towers_report.pdf

Blake Levitt and Henry Lai (2010)  provide an articulate and thorough review of cell towers and the radiation they emit. This is a classic paper that clearly explains and defines terms used in the literature, providing a foundation of knowledge as well as a review of the literature.   Biological effects from exposure to electromagnetic radiation emitted by cell tower base stations and other antenna arrays.(2010) Page 374- Biological Effects at Low intensity)   Blake Levitt, Henry Lai. Environmental Reviews, 2010, 18(NA): 369-395. http://www.nrcresearchpress.com/doi/full/10.1139/A10-018#.WYUlOHeZNo4

Balmori Review on the Effects of Cell Towers on Wildlife (2009) first notes, “Life has evolved under the influence of two omnipresent forces: gravity and electromagnetism. It should be expected that both play important roles in the functional activities of organisms.”  He provides a detailed review of how long term emissions from cell towers (phone masts) causes a general decline in the health of plants and animals in nearby habitats. This could be through a reduction of natural health defenses and reproductive failure. He cites many references in this paper which is a well written critical resource for those in public health, the environmental community as well as legislative members who wish to understand this issue.  Electromagnetic Pollution From Phone Masts. Effects on Wildlife. Alfonso Balmori. Pathophysiology. Volume 16, Issues 2-3,  August 2009 , Pages 191-199 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0928468009000030    or full article on ResearchGate at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/24180316_Electromagnetic_pollution_from_phone_masts_Effects_on_wildlife


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