From the July Birding Community e-Bulletin:
PROPOSED FCC RULE CHANGE PRESENTS A THREAT
A proposed Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule would exempt construction of communication towers from our nation's environmental laws. Currently, the birds benefit from existing lighting guidelines, but the rule change could have a negative impact
on birds, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and possibly other bedrock environmental laws.
Millions of birds are directly harmed by colliding with towers each year, and other species avoid tall structures such as towers because they serve as perches for predators. The FCC has treated communication towers as subject to NEPA for the last 43 years.
As a result, the current protocols for environmental analysis are used to protect at-risk species whenever new towers are built. One important example is the need for appropriate siting of towers in the habitat of Greater Sage-Grouse. Sage-grouse are among
the species that avoid tall structures in their habitat and accordingly lose the use of sagebrush habitat if there are towers present. (See the next story on other problems confronting sage-grouse.)
Furthermore, exempting towers from environmental review would have other negative impacts. "Without NEPA, the public loses its ability to comment on proposed tower locations, or to ask that the environmental risks those towers pose to migratory birds or species
of conservation concern be minimized," said Steve Holmer, American Bird Conservancy's Vice President of Policy.
The current concern extends to changing recently adopted lighting guidelines that help reduce the number of birds killed at towers - an estimated 7 million birds per year. New lighting standards can reduce collisions by as much as 70 percent while also lowering
energy costs. "We appreciate that hundreds of tower operators have already adopted the new standards, and urge the operators of the remaining towers to change their lights to save birds and to save energy," added Holmer. Basically, it would not be wise to
step back from progress already made.
excerpt submitted by
ASM Conservation Partnership Coordinator
The Audubon Society of Missouri's Wild Bird Discussion Forum
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