Federal Court Orders
Cell Tower Safeguards for Migrating Birds |
Immediate Release: February 19, 2008
, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext 235
, American Bird Conservancy, 202/234-7181
Decision could save millions
of birds killed each year in tower collisions
Washington, DC – A federal court
of appeals today issued a ruling ordering the Federal Communications
Commission to carefully evaluate the potential adverse effects
of communications towers on migratory bird populations of
the Gulf Coast region. A panel of federal judges ruled that
national environmental laws like the Endangered Species Act
and the National Environmental Policy Act require the FCC
to more carefully consider these possible adverse effects
in its tower permitting process.
“We are very pleased by today’s
ruling which will require the FCC to assess the environmental
impacts of towers,” said Darin Schroeder, American Bird
Conservancy’s Executive Director of Conservation Advocacy.
“Given the large number of bird deaths caused by towers,
an environmental review is long overdue. This is a huge victory
for migratory birds and the millions of Americans who love
to see them each year.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates
between five million and fifty million birds are killed each
year in collisions and other accidents caused by communications
towers. In its decision, the court criticized the FCC for
refusing to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service when
approving such towers.
The court also said the FCC failed to sufficiently
involve the public in its tower approval process.
“The Catch-22 … is that the
Commission provides public notice of individual tower applications
only after approving them,” the court wrote in its decision.
Tens of thousands of communication towers
dot landscapes across the country. In Texas alone, there are
over 10,000 of these towers. Each month, the FCC receives
more than 20 new applications for tower construction.
The situation is critical along the Gulf
Coast where thousands of communications towers dot the 1,000-mile
stretch of coastline between Pt. Isabel, Texas and Tampa Bay,
Florida. Towers along this major migratory bird route threaten
many different bird species. Exhausted from their journey
across the Gulf of Mexico, these migrating songbirds collide
with towers or the accompanying guy wires. In some cases,
the birds confuse the blinking lights atop the cell towers
with the night stars they use to navigate their journey. The
birds become disoriented and begin circling the tower until
they collapse from exhaustion and plummet to the ground.
The public interest law firm Earthjustice
brought the case to federal court on behalf of the American
Bird Conservancy. Earthjustice attorneys argued that FCC violated
federal law by approving dozens of new towers each year with
little or no environmental review.
“The court has clearly directed the
FCC to respect national environmental laws when handing out
permits for these tower.” said Earthjustice attorney
Steve Roady. “FCC now must go back and carefully evaluate
the environmental impacts of these towers.”
A copy of the decision can be found at
Conservancy works to conserve native wild birds and their
habitats throughout the Americas. ABC acts to safeguard the
rarest bird species, restore habitats, and reduce threats,
while building capacity in the conservation movement. ABC
is a 501(c)(3) membership organization that is consistently
awarded a top, four-star rating by the independent group,
Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting
the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of
this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a
healthy environment. Earthjustice brings about far-reaching
change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on
behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.