NAB: Tower Impact Bird Deaths Not Significant
May 4, 2007
The National Association of Broadcasters and other members of the Infrastructure Coalition have filed comments with the FCC opposing any radical change to commission rules regarding communications and broadcast towers to protect migrating birds from collision with the towers. The coalition said, "At present, however, there remains a striking absence of broad-based, peer-reviewed evidence as to whether avian-tower collisions significantly affect the human environment. Indeed, although the reasons are unclear, it is widely agreed that avian-tower mortality rates are declining while the number of towers is increasing. As a result, it is a poor time for the FCC to consider changing the status quo absent further research, which produces clear and compelling evidence that a new policy approach is needed and will generate significant improvements. It is therefore unwise to consider possible mitigation that may be ineffective, unintentionally harmful or cost-prohibitive. Adopting new regulations under these circumstances is plainly contrary to law."
The coalition went on to say that it "recognizes the importance of preserving the ecological balance of migratory birds, and reiterates its support for continued meaningful \ review and research concerning any relationship between towers and migratory bird mortality. To that end, coalition members recently engaged in a dialogue related to avian tower safety with avian/environmental groups. That dialogue is designed to consider approaches to focus and narrow the complex issues associated with avian tower safety." The coalition and avian environmental groups jointly filed a request with the FAA to conduct a study to determine if steady-burning red obstruction sidelights can be safely eliminated.
Are tower collisions a significant cause of avian mortality? No, according to the coalition. In its comments, it notes that the avian mortality attributable to all communications towers is approximately 0.42 percent of all human-caused avian mortality. Other causes include window collisions, vehicle collisions, transmission lines, wind energy facilities, pesticides and oil pollution, hunting and domestic cat predation. Based on this small percentage, the coalition asserts: "Thus, communications towers are one of the smallest of all mortality factors. Furthermore, the avian mortality attributable to communications towers is only 0.05 percent of the total migratory bird population (based on an estimated population of 10 billion birds). Yet, the government has failed to take any action against some of the more significant causes of avian mortality. Consistent with the state of the science and the limited role of towers in avian mortality, the federal government has taken only minimal steps to modify the deployment of federally owned towers to address avian issues. In pursuing the public interest goal of reducing avian mortality, there is no basis for singling out towers over other causes. Even if towers were a rational place to start regulation, there is no clear basis for singling out commercial towers rather than government-owned towers. In short, the FCC should not be leading the public policy debate on an issue with respect to which it lacks particular expertise and which may undercut its other public policy priorities."
In addition to these arguments, the comments contain other reasons why the FCC should not impose additional regulations on communications and broadcaster towers to protect migrating birds.