Idaho hopes to create first International Dark Sky Reserve in US this fall

The United States currently lacks an International Dark Sky Reserve. But after years of work from officials and townspeople in Idaho, that could change.

This fall, officials in Idaho will apply to have 1,400 square miles in south-central Idaho designated as an International Dark Sky Reserve by the International Dark Sky Association. With only 11 reserves currently existing around the world, these designations don’t come easily.

According to the International Dark Sky Association’s website, a reserve is defined as such:

“An IDA International Dark Sky Reserve is a public or private land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment. Reserves consist of a core area meeting minimum criteria for sky quality and natural darkness, and a peripheral area that supports dark sky preservation in the core.”

The Idaho Statesman pointed out that a reserve has two main components: “The first is a core area dark enough to meet the association’s standards. The second is a buffer area with communities that demonstrate support in protecting the core by limiting light pollution.”

The area that Idaho officials, townspeople and the Idaho Conservation League would protect is in the Sawtooth National Forest, with the support of the surrounding towns of Ketchum, Sun Valley and Stanley. Ketchum has approved a dark-sky ordinance that requires residents to install hoods on exterior lights, as well as mandating that holiday lighting by businesses and residents be turned off at night.

Nearby towns of Sun Valley and Hailey also have dark-sky ordinances on the books in hopes of getting the area designated as a reserve, since the application looks favorably on areas with residents who are willing to support protecting the area from light pollution.

While researchers say nearly 80 percent of Americans live in areas that are affected by light pollution, central Idaho is one of the few places that offers unadulterated dark sky, which makes it perfect for reserve status. Hopefully this area in Idaho gets some good news this fall.

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