Over the past two years, thousands of communications tower operators have updated their lighting systems by turning off steady-burning (L-810) side-marker lights that attract birds and cause millions to die from collisions each year. (Flashing lights remain atop these towers, ensuring aviation safety.) Since 2016, more than 2,700 of about 13,900 tall towers have made this change, stemming from December 2015 guidelines by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC) pertaining to towers over 350 feet in height and their impact on aviation safety and birdlife.
“Every year in the United States, approximately 7 million migratory birds collide with tall communications towersand die,” said Steve Holmer, American Bird Conservancy’s (ABC’s) Vice President of Policy. “These birds, namely migratory species such as Yellow-billed Cuckoosand Blackpoll Warblers, are attracted to and disoriented by the steady-burning red lights on towers. Simply turning off the lights can reduce a tower’s rate of bird mortality by as much as 70 percent and save the tower operators money.”
Following a 2012 FAA reportconfirming that turning off the steady-burning lights maintains aviation safety, the FAA and FCC have since created a simple process for tower operatorsto request and receive official permission to adjust their current lighting systems. Operators are now increasingly taking these steps to reduce electricity and other tower operating costs, as well as to protect migratory birds.
Robert Davis, who works for the city of Savannah, Georgia, commented on the tower lighting change his team embraced eight months ago: “We sought and received approval from the FCC and FAA to turn off our waist (side-burning) lights on our 400-foot radio tower.… The FCC and FAA seemed to be aware of the program and were very cooperative and responsive to our request to discontinue the lights.”
“American Bird Conservancy commends tower operators who have turned off their steady-burning lights,” says Holmer. “Thanks to their individual efforts, hundreds of thousands of migratory birds are now being saved each year as a result.”
ABC will be diligently working this summer to help U.S. tower operatorsembrace lighting adjustments on the remaining 11,228 towers that have yet to make the change.
Editor’s note: This is a press release from the American Bird Conservancy. Why am I telling you about this? It is not about the West Virginia Highlands Conservancy and is not an issue that we have ever worked on. It is just a reminder that things do get better. The Voice has a lot of stories about environmental problems–protections being rolled back or widespread non-compliance with the Clean Water Act. Here is something good that is happening, a step forward. There was a problem; somebody took a simple step. Now it is better. It’s not perfect but it’s better. “So it goes like it goes and the river flows and time it rolls right on And maybe what’s good gets a little bit better And maybe what’s bad gets gone” (From It Goes Like It Goesby David Shireand Norman Gimbel)