A Hennepin County judge has ruled that AT&T cannot build a 450-foot cell phone tower near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. But he did approve a shorter version, which could be no taller than 200 feet.
AT&T wanted to build a lighted tower as tall as Minneapolis's Foshay Tower, one and a half miles from the edge of the Boundary Waters near Ely.
The nonprofit group Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness brought suit, saying the tower would ruin scenic views from many places.
District Court Judge Philip Bush agreed, ruling that the lighted tower would have a "significant, persistent long-term negative effect on scenic views from numerous locations" in the wilderness. He said a 200-foot tower would provide nearly the same coverage.
Paul Danicic, director of the Friends group, said his organization recognizes the desire for better cell phone coverage near the BWCAW.
"We were just arguing that this area is so special by definition of what it is, let's do that in a way that doesn't ruin what makes the area special. So we're really pleased by this decision," he said.
Danicic said he hopes the ruling will prompt companies building towers near other wilderness areas to design non-obtrusive projects.
AT&T said in a statement that it's reviewing the ruling, and considering its options.