FCC looks into avian impacts

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The Federal Communications Commission last week made good on its pledge to
open a notice of inquiry (NOI) into the impact, literally, of towers and
antennas on migratory birds.

Of particular concern are the 350 species of neotropical songbirds
--warblers, thrushes, bobolinks -- that do their migrating at night and thus are
more susceptible to violent encounters with fog-shrouded structures.

The NOI stems from complaints from environmental groups about the number of
birds colliding with communications towers.

The FCC says it wants to determine what specific factors may decrease or
increase such collisions, estimated by some researchers at four to five million
a year, though the commission says it has insufficient evidence of a reliable
figure.

Environmental Group Friends of the Earth sued the FCC last spring, charging
that the commission was unduly delaying action on the collision issue.

The court disagreed and the FCC said it was preparing to open this inquiry.

FOE was not thrilled with the NOI: "It’s another delaying tactic," said FOE
Executive Director Norman Dean. "The NOI does not satisfy the FCC’s legal duties
under either the Environmental Policy Act or the Endangered Species Act."

Instead, the group wants the commission to conduct environmental impact
studies for individual tower-site proposals and to consult with the Fish and
Wildlife Service.

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