Asheville Ecological Services Field Office
Conserving the Nature of America





Recommendations for design and construction of cell phone and other towers

These recommendations are meant to serve as a guide. Additional or alternative steps may be necessary depending on the situation, including species or habitat type present. Following these guidelines, though likely to expedite project review, is not a substitute for review of the project by a Service biologist.

Lighting and design – Birds collide with towers and/or their guyed wires and die.  However, when designing towers, many steps can be taken to minimize the chance of bird-tower collisions.  Many migratory birds travel at night and are attracted to tower lights, especially red lights.  Therefore, efforts to decrease the likelihood of bird-tower collisions should include steps to minimize the amount of tower lighting and use lighting that is the least attractive to the birds. We recommend:

  • * Building the structure less than 200 feet above ground level, thus avoiding requirements for tower lighting
  • * Building the structure without guy wires
  • * Using red or white (preferable) strobe lights instead of flashing lights.
  • * Avoid the use of solid red or pulsating red warning lights at night
  • * Using the minimum amount of lighting, the minimum intensity of lighting, and the minimum number of strobe flashes allowed with the minimum strobe flash duration under Federal Communications Commission/Federal Aviation Administration regulations
  • * Minimizing security lighting for on‑ground facilities and ensure that such lighting points downward or is down‑shielded
  • * Illuminating the tower with additional daytime white strobes (in addition to the tower top) to increase daytime visibility

Tower siting – One of the simplest ways to avoid bird deaths at towers is simply to place the tower in such a way that it decreases the number of opportunities birds would have to collide with it.  We recommend:

  • * Collocating equipment on existing towers
  • * Siting new towers within existing “antenna farms” (clusters of towers)
  • * Siting towers away from wetlands, other known bird concentration areas (e.g., state or federal refuges, staging areas, rookeries), or in known migratory or daily movement flyways
  • * Siting towers outside areas with a high incidence of fog, mist, or low ceilings
  • * Constructing towers so they can accommodate possible future collocations of antennas

Preventing or minimizing erosion – While soil forms the foundation of life on land, in water it becomes a pollutant, smothering aquatic insects, mussels, and other life; rendering fish spawning areas useless; and damaging sensitive tissues, like fish gills.  It also increases drinking water treatment costs for downstream users. In order to minimize the amount of soil that enters a stream during the construction of a project, we recommend:

  • * Installing all erosion‑control measures prior to starting ground‑disturbing activities
  • * Frequently maintaining erosion-control measures
  • * Returning existing approaches to preconstruction contours upon completion of the project, and planting the area with native grasses and tree species.
  • * Planting temporary (e.g., rye, grain, wheat, millet) or permanent herbaceous material to help control erosion immediately following any ground‑disturbing activity (native annual small grains and herbs appropriate for the season is recommended.  Invasive, exotic species (including fescue) should be avoided)

Site and access road management – If managed correctly, the project area can provide quality habitat for birds and other animals.  In order to minimize the negative impacts of the construction area and maximize the potential habitat value, we recommend:

  • * Using woody debris and logs from road and site clearing to establish brush piles at the edges (just in the woods) of the cleared areas to improve habitat for wildlife
  • * Allowing cleared areas to develop into a brush/scrub habitat to maximize benefits to wildlife.  Corridor maintenance should be minimized, and mowing should be prohibited between April 1 and October 1 in order to reduce impacts to nesting wildlife
  • * Establishing a maintenance schedule that incorporates a portion of the area (e.g., one‑third) each year instead of the entire project every 2 or 3 years
    * Avoiding  the removal of large trees at the edges of construction corridors


Note: Fish & Wildlife Service project planning and review is coordinated by the Asheville Field Office in the western half of North Carolina and by the Raleigh Field Office in the eastern half.

Map: Asheville and Raleigh Field Offices work areas. Credit: USFWS Link to Raleigh Field Office web site


The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission has developed a A Guidance Memorandum to Address and Mitigate Secondary and Cumulative Impacts to Aquatic and Terrestrial Wildlife Resources and Water Quality. The memorandum provides numerous recommendations to address the environmental impacts that may result from a project. We support this document and encourage you to use it.

Photo montage of biologists shocking for fish, a biologists studying a plant, and biologists recording mussel data. Photo credits: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service



Project planning and review contacts:

Address for all:
160 Zillicoa St.
Asheville, NC 28801

Allen Ratzlaff
office - 828/258-3939, ext 229
fax - 828/258-5330
Projects involving the USDA (Forest Service, Rural Utilities Services, Farm Services, and Rural Development) National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Aviation Authority, Federal Transportation Administration or Department of Housing and Urban Development, as well as mines and industrial parks

Marella Buncick
office - 828/258-3939, ext. 237
cell - 828/215-1743
fax - 828/258-5330
Projects involving the North Carolina Department of Transportation or Federal Highway Administration

Mark Cantrell
office - 828/258-3939, ext. 227
cell - 828/215-1739
fax - 828/258-5330
Projects involving the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Tennessee Valley Authority, or Natural Resources Conservation Service

Bryan Tompkins
office - 828/258-3939, ext. 240
fax - 828/258-5330
Projects involving the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Jay Mays
office - 828/258-3939, ext. 226
cell - 828/216-4969
fax - 828/258-5330
Projects involving the North Carolina Department of Transportation or Federal Highway Administration


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Last Updated: May 15, 2008