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FCC to study effect of migratory birds on communications towers

The FCC will study the impact that communications towers may have on migratory birds. A new Notice of Inquiry (NOI) on the subject is part of the FCC’s environmental and historic preservation action plan announced by Chairman Michael Powell last May. The issue has been a problematic one for broadcasters looking to build DTV towers in rural areas and indeed has held up construction in places such as Denver, Colo. and Burlington, Vt.

Each year thousands of birds migrate throughout the U.S. and Canada. Little is known, however, about how many of these birds die along the way due to collisions with communications towers.

Migratory birds breed throughout the U.S. and Canada and, in the fall of each year, migrate to the southern regions of the U.S., Mexico, and Central and South America for the winter. Little is known, however, how many of these birds die along the way due to collisions with communications towers.

In addition, the FCC said, while some literature suggests that certain factors—such as tower height, lighting systems, type of antenna support structure, and location—may increase or decrease the hazards that towers pose to migratory birds, there does not appear to be systematic research on an adequate scale regarding exactly how and to what extent, if at all, these factors contribute to any risk to migratory birds.

The inquiry is designed to gather comment and information on scientific research and other related data relevant to migratory bird collisions with communications towers. Depending on the record developed in the proceeding, the FCC will consider whether the current state of research supports further action, including possible amendments to its environmental rules.

The FCC contact on the issue is Bill Stafford at (202) 418-0563 or e-mail

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