The magic of the night – International Dark-Sky Parks and Reserves

Source: dark-sky.org

I will be honest with you. I am a dark-sky advocate, but until just a few weeks ago, I didn’t know these existed. International Dark-Sky Parks/Reserves are meant to be special places where one can enjoy the magic of the night sky without the being hampered by the ill effects of light pollution diminishing the glory.

Established by the International Dark-Sky Association, there are now 14 International Dark-Sky Parks/Reserves in seven states and six nations. We here in Michigan are fortunate enough to have one in the northern Lower Peninsula near Mackinaw City called Headlands International Dark-Sky Park.  I am also very proud to say that Governor Snyder signed legislation in July of 2012 establishing Michigan’s first Dark Sky Coast. It protects the night sky on 21,000 acres of state forest land in Emmet County near Headlands International Dark-Sky Park (see map below).

Michigan’s Dark-Sky Coast
Source: http://www.emmetcounty.org/dark-sky-coast-600/

The objectives of the parks program are as follows:

  • “To identify and honor protected public lands (national, state, provincial and other parks and notable public lands) with exceptional commitment to, and success in implementing, the ideals of dark sky preservation and/or restoration;
  • To preserve and/or restore outstanding night skies;
  • To promote protection of nocturnal habitat, public enjoyment of the night sky and its heritage, and areas ideal for professional and amateur astronomy;
  • To encourage park administrators to identify dark skies as a valuable resource in need of proactive protection;
  • To provide international recognition for such parks; and
  • To encourage parks and similar public entities to become environmental leaders on dark sky issues by communicating the importance of dark skies to the general public and surrounding communities, and by providing an example of what is possible.”

Meanwhile, the objectives of the reserve program are as follows:

  • “To identify and honor public or private land and their surrounding communities with exceptional commitment to, and success in implementing, the ideals of dark sky preservation and/or restoration inside and surrounding the core;
  • To encourage land administrators, surrounding communities and private interest to identify dark skies as a valuable resource in need of proactive protection;
  • To preserve and/or restore outstanding night skies;
  • To promote the protection of areas with an exceptional starry night. Ideal for professional and/or amateur astronomy, nocturnal habitats, culture, heritage and/or public enjoyment of the night sky;
  • To provide international recognition for such sites; and
  • To encourage other habited or uninhabited areas formed of public and/or private entities to become environmental leaders on dark sky issues by communicating the importance of dark skies and by providing an example of the possibilities of dark sky friendly lighting.”

The world’s largest International Dark-Sky Reserve is Aoraki Mackenzie, which occupies 1,600 square miles on New Zealand’s South Island. A map of its location is shown below:

The list of International Dark-Sky Parks or Reserves include:

International Dark Sky Parks

  • Natural Bridges National Monument - Utah, USA (2006)
  • Cherry Springs State Park – Pennsylvania, USA (2008)
  • Galloway Forest Park - Scotland, UK (2009)
  • Zselic National Landscape Protection Area, Hungary (2009)
  • Clayton Lake State Park – New Mexico, USA (2010)
  • Goldendale Observatory State Park – Washington, USA (2010)
  • Hortobagy National Park – Hungary (2011)
  • The Headlands – Michigan, USA (2011)
  • Observatory Park – Ohio USA (2011)
  • Big Bend National Park - Texas, USA (2012)
  • The Reserve at Mont-Mégantic – Quebec, Canada, 2008
  • Exmoor National Park – England, UK, 2011
  • NamibRand Nature Reserve – Namibia, Africa, 2012
  • Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve – New Zealand, 2012

If you are interested in protecting and preserving the magic of the night by establishing a dark-sky park or reserve in your area, please consider contacting the International Dark-Sky Association.

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5 thoughts on “The magic of the night – International Dark-Sky Parks and Reserves

  1. Brian says:

    Many, many years agoI recall being awe struck by a photograph taken from one of our earliest satellites as it circled our earth.
    However, nothing in the accompanying article mentioned the light contamination by the urban sprawl that had taken hold on our Atlantic seaboard.
    In Belleek we still enjoy a Dark Sky Place and hopefully more places will turn out the lights.

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