Glacier National Park’s Comprehensive Telecommunications Plan Approved
The plan will improve park telecommunications systems and establish conditions and parameters for commercial cell and internet coverage.
WEST GLACIER, Mont. [January 5, 2022] – The National Park Service (NPS) has approved Glacier National Park’s Comprehensive Telecommunications Plan. On December 13, 2021, the Regional Director for NPS Interior Regions 6, 7, and 8 signed a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the environmental assessment (EA) prepared for the plan.
Actions under the plan will address deficiencies in NPS radio, phone, computer and data-based telecommunications systems that support park operations. The plan will allow a flexible response to changing communication needs and advances in technology, including upgrading to new technologies and/or removing unnecessary NPS telecommunications infrastructure if needed.
Improvements to NPS systems will include phone system upgrades, improved Internet speed and access, improved electronic file and information sharing, remote access to digital video security systems, more reliable reporting for utility alarms, improved radio communications in areas where radio coverage is insufficient, and backup radio communications. Project areas include existing NPS telecommunications sites and/or developed areas at Many Glacier, Two Medicine, East Glacier, St. Mary, the Polebridge, Walton, and Goat Haunt Ranger Stations, Chief Mountain Port of Entry, Logan Pass Visitor Center, the Loop on the Going-to-the-Sun Road (GTSR), and Apgar Mountain. The plan also includes possible radio repeater sites in the park’s recommended wilderness, including Elk Mountain and Looking Glass Hill.
Some of the changes to infrastructure and equipment as a result of NPS telecommunications improvements include:
- installing or replacing telecommunications infrastructure and equipment, such as radio antennas and microwave dishes;
- replacing three equipment poles (similar in size and appearance to a telephone pole) with 40-foot lattice frame towers and extending the height of one 40-foot tower to 80 feet (approximately 6 feet wide at the base);
- installing a radio repeater at the Loop on the GTSR, including an estimated 30-foot mast, antenna, and solar panels on the roof of the existing comfort station;
- installing temporary radio repeaters for use during short-term non-emergency projects or situations;
- possibly installing permanent radio repeaters (consisting of an approximately 5x4x5-foot equipment shelter, 20-foot mast, and solar panels) on Elk Mountain and other sites in recommended wilderness if NPS radio communications are not sufficiently improved by other actions. Other areas in recommended wilderness preliminarily identified for possible permanent repeaters include the Belly River, Nyack, or Two Medicine areas, or on Mt. Brown;
- upgrading an existing temporary repeater at Looking Glass Hill, also in recommended wilderness, until the repeater can be moved to a location outside the park. Recent developments indicate the Looking Glass Hill repeater may be moved outside the park without first requiring the upgrade.
Additionally, the plan enables a strategy for commercial cellular and/or Internet access for public and NPS use in certain developed areas. Applications for commercial telecommunications infrastructure and coverage will only be considered at the Many Glacier, Rising Sun, Two Medicine, and Lake McDonald Lodge developed areas. Coverage shall be restricted to these developed areas only. Commercial infrastructure and coverage will not be permitted until a site-specific review is complete and any application is approved in accordance with the NPS right-of-way permitting process. Commercial communications providers interested in submitting a proposal should contact Glacier National Park representative Brian McKeon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The plan establishes conditions and parameters on the placement, size, amount, and type of commercial telecommunications infrastructure and equipment. Only commercial infrastructure with minimal visibility and impacts to park resources shall be permitted, such as micro cell sites or wireless access points. Highly visible infrastructure will not be permitted under the plan, including large-scale towers. The plan will not permit commercial telecommunications infrastructure in recommended wilderness or in the park’s Backcountry Zone as defined in Glacier’s 1999 General Management Plan. The plan requires that signal spillover outside approved areas be minimized as much as technologically feasible, including in recommended wilderness and along park roadways.
In June of 2021, the NPS solicited formal public comments on the plan and EA. A summary of comments and NPS responses is attached to the FONSI.
For more detailed information on actions in the plan, the Comprehensive Telecommunications Plan EA and Finding of No Significant Impact are available on the NPS Planning, Environment & Public Comment (PEPC) website.