Saturday, September 30, 2023
Courthouse News Service
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FCC Must Protect Birds From Tower Collisions

WASHINGTON (CN) - The D.C. Circuitordered theFederal Communications Commission to establish safeguardsto prevent migratory birds from dying in collisions with telephone, radio, cellular and other communications towers along the Gulf Coast.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act makes it illegal to "pursue, hunt, take capture or kill" any migratory bird. Birdwatchers and conservationists claimed the FCC unlawfully "takes" millions of migratory birds each year when the birds are killed in collisions with FCC-licensed towers.

Environmental groups claim the towers kill 4 million to 50 million birds each year, while industry groups say those numbers are grossly inflated.

The FCC never formally consulted with the Fish and Wildlife Service about the towers' effects on endangered and threatened species, nor did it provide adequate public notice of individual tower applications, the court ruled.

The defendant "cannot evade its duty" to comply with environmental regulations and its own rules by giving the public a "hollow opportunity to participate" in the procedures," the ruling states.

Judge Brett Kavanaugh dissented, saying he would dismiss the lawsuit as unripe because the FCC is re-examining the environmental issues for communication towers nationwide, not just in the Gulf Coast region.

The lawsuit was filed by theAmerican Bird Conservancy and the Forest Conservation Council.

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