If you live in or near a large city, you know that the stars you can see on a nightly basis are nothing next to what a starry night looks like when you take a trip to the country. We can thank ever-increasing light pollution for that. That’s why the International Dark-Sky Association is working to make parts of the sky in Idaho designated as “dark-sky reserves,” so that people can get a glimpse of the nighttime sky as nature intended it.
So what exactly is a dark-sky reserve? It’s an area, often surrounding a park or observatory, that restricts artificial light pollution to allow for optimal stargazing. A dark-sky reserve is comprised of a core area dark enough to meet the association’s standards, surrounded by a buffer area of communities that support the effect by limiting light pollution. Think of it as a forest preserve for the sky.
The proposed reserve in Idaho would be the first of its kind in the United States. But other countries, including New Zealand, England, Ireland, France and Germany, have already implemented the policy.
“We know the night sky has inspired people for many thousands of years,” John Barentine, program manager at the International Dark-Sky Association, told the News & Observer. “When they are in a space where they can see it, it’s often a very profound experience.”
Leaders in Ketchum, Sun Valley and Stanley, Idaho, are working to apply for a 1,400-square-mile area to be designated as a dark-sky reserve, which includes a large section of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. The group will be applying for the designation this fall, and a decision will come about 10 weeks after the application is submitted.
Supporters say that a completely dark sky offers a host of benefits, including improved sleep rhythms for people, a more natural environment for wildlife, increased home values and increased tourism.
“It’s nice to look up and see something greater than ourselves,” Nina Jonas, mayor of Ketchum, Idaho, told the News & Observer.
We couldn’t agree more. Here’s hoping for more dar- sky reserves across the U.S.