New BWCA checklist: a paddle, fishing pole and a cell phone

20100601_rapids_33.jpgThe Isabella River winds its way west toward Bald Eagle Lake in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. (MPR File Photo/Nathaniel Minor)

A five day trial beginning this week in Hennepin County will determine if AT&T can build a cell phone tower visible from many locations within the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. AT&T argues local residents ought to be able to get better service and that service would increase public safety within the wilderness. Environmentalists counter that the tower would put birds at risk and spoil the rare wilderness experience.

The Star Tribune reports the proposed tower, like the wilderness area, is huge.

The tower would include lights that would flash day and night and wiring to support it. With the height of the ridge, the top of the tower would reach 600 feet above the shore of nearby Pipestone Bay. By comparison, downtown Minneapolis’ Foshay Tower stands 448 feet tall and Minneapolis’ tallest building, the IDS Tower, is 886 feet. Most cell phone towers in the state are no taller than 199 feet.

Can you hear me now?

A slight echo of a ring-tone across a lake that took days to reach with your own strength would no doubt annoy fishing and outdoor enthusiasts. The visual pollution could cheapen the wonder of the northern lights, but it would provide residents and potentially stranded canoeists a more reliable connection to the outside world.

For years, travelers in the BWCA are finding cell service growing, but without the intrusion of a tower of this size. The signal isn’t reliable enough for you to leave your first aid kit at home.

The tower has found support by some locals who say the wilderness isn’t as wild as opponents suggest. The Ely Timberjay wrote about the issue last year:

“There are all kinds of things that are visible from the wilderness,” said Mary Tome, a Fall Lake Township supervisor. “You can see car lights from some of the landings on Fall Lake. You can see airplanes. The border patrol is visible from parts of the wilderness. They’re flying around up there all the time,” said Tome.

Communication into the deep woods has been a challenge for years, but creative measures have circumvented the challenge. Broadcasters at WELY continue to aid the transmissions of messages via their Personal and Emergency Message service which allows people to send coded messages over the FM airwaves to their colleges, friends and family.

The issue of cell towers encroaching on wilderness areas and experiences is also playing out further south of the Boundary Waters. A similar AT&T tower will be erected along the banks of the St. Croix River, a National Scenic Waterway, much to the chagrin of locals there.

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Insight NowAn Open Mic

Be Kerri Miller (or your favorite interviewer) – Ask a question you wish someone would ask

There’s been an idea I’ve wanted to spring on you for a few weeks. It comes from someone in our community – @khatti.

In a post, Khatti told us that he had been listening to a program on perceived bias in public broadcasting, (this was when NPR was at the center of a controversy after being part of a conservative sting).

That talk about the media got Khatti thinking about the sins of interviewers. They are often, he said, sins of omission.

“(T)he reporters and interviewers don’t ask the question because the question genuinely doesn’t occur to them,” he wrote. It’s understandable. There are only so many minutes in an hour, and only so many questions someone can ask.

But it prompted Khatti to think about a new Insight Now segment:

“I want to institute a new segment to our Open Mic thread: “Fantasy Questions for Kerri.” This is the place where we dream up questions for Kerri Miller (host of MPR’s Midmorning program) that she will probably never ask of guests that she will probably never have on the air.”

What a great way to think of subjects we might want to tackle.

Imagine for a moment you are Kerri Miller, or Gary Eichten, or Charlie Rose…. heck it could be Barbara Walters or Ted Koppel. You have a broadcast interview program. It could be national (think NPR), it could be statewide (MPR). But you are going to do it your way.

What’s one question you always wished would have been asked of one interview subject. It could be someone likely to be on these kinds of programs (the president, the governor), but it might also be someone who wouldn’t be thought of as a typical guest. Khatti, for example, wanted to ask the former husband of rock singer Pat Benatar what it was like for him to have been dumped by her for a career.

Now remember, this is an “open mic” thread, where you can play off of the ideas of others… just be kind of free-flowing with your ideas.

So take the chair in the studio and become the host of a broadcast interview program. What question would you ask that you’ve always wanted to hear on MPR or NPR? Who would be the person to field that question? And explain why?

Comment on our Open Mic