FCC Rejects Call to Halt Telecom Towers for Birds
WASHINGTON The Federal Communications Commission Wednesday dismissed a request from environmental groups to halt construction of communications towers in the Gulf Coast region until steps are taken to protect millions of migratory birds.
In its decision, the FCC said a moratorium would hinder the availability of commercial and public safety communications in the region, still reeling from last year's devastating hurricane.
The agency, which licenses the building and operations of communications towers, also said the environmental groups did not provide a legal justification for their request.
However, the FCC said it will revisit the issue soon to examine the effects of the towers on migratory birds.
The Forest Conservation Council, the American Bird Conservancy and Friends of the Earth filed a petition in August 2002, arguing that the construction of towers in the Gulf region violated federal environmental laws and posed a danger to migratory birds.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that as many as 5 million migratory birds are killed each year at communications towers in the United States, including some birds that are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
George Fenwick, president of the American Bird Conservancy, said adoption of simple measures, such as changing aviation safety lights on towers, could significantly reduce bird kills.
"The lights ... interfere with the birds' celestial navigation cues. Confused, the birds fly around the towers repeatedly, crashing into one another, the tower, its guy wires, or the ground. Others simply drop from exhaustion," Fenwick said in a statement before the FCC decision was announced.
A wireless telecommunications industry group, PCIA, said it was encouraged by the FCC decision.
"There is no clear evidence that telecommunications towers pose a real threat to migratory birds," PCIA President Michael Fitch said in a statement. "It is reassuring that the commission refused to act on the basis of an inconclusive record before it."