Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge considers application for cellular tower - We want to hear from you!

Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge seeks input on draft Environmental Assessment for Right-of-way permit to construct cellular tower.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) requests public comment on a newly released draft Environmental Assessment (EA) and Compatibility Determination (CD). The EA proposes to approve an application to construct a cellular communications tower to improve communications and emergency response across the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge (refuge). This project is proposed under a Right of Way Permit application by Branch Communications and would support multiple cellular carriers, serve as a FirstNet site for emergency communications, support radio equipment, and provide fiber optic cable for use at the Visitor Center and new Administrative and Maintenance Complex.

The EA proposes to approve the ROW Permit application to allow construction of a 320’ tall, guyed cell tower located southeast of the intersection of State Highway (SH) 49 (a.k.a. Cache Meers Road) and SH 115, roughly across the highway and slightly east of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center.

The permit is being considered to increase cellular service and expand coverage within and around the refuge to better meet the needs of the visiting public and support refuge goals and objectives. There is limited cell service in the area and the proposed action would provide for expanded services to customers as well as function as a FirstNet site to provided expanded bandwidth for emergency response activities. The tower would also host radio repeaters for use by the refuge and partner agencies for improved emergency communications. The EA suggests that approval of this permit will support visitor navigation on the refuge to help prevent search and rescue operations, improve communication and navigation of first responders to improve response time to all emergencies, and aid in protection of habitat by reducing off-trail traffic. Additionally, improved cellular and internet for the staff increases efficiency to better administer public use programs. Increased cellular service could also open Visitor Services opportunities including various methods of interpretation or education that can be accomplished with a phone application, cellular service, and mobile data. 

The draft Environmental Assessment and Compatibility Determination are available on-line. The EA and CD may also be obtained by electronic request to wmr_publiccomment@fws.gov. Comments should be mailed to Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, 32 Refuge Headquarters, Indiahoma, OK 73552, or sent via email to wmr_publiccomment@fws.gov. In order to be considered, all comments must be received by 11:59 p.m., November 28, 2022. All comments on the draft EA are considered public records. Anonymous, oral, and social media comments will not be considered.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals, and commitment to public service.