International Dark-Sky Communities, Parks, and Reserves

To promote the establishment of special protection areas for natural night skies and to honor exceptional commitment to preservation of darkness, the International Dark-Sky Association with a number of international collaborators and reviewers have established the International Dark Sky Communities, Parks, and Reserves certification program. These locations serve as reminders that with quality outdoor lighting, the extraordinary wonders of the nighttime sky and night environment are just as much a part of our lifestyle and history as are the daylight hours. We strive to identify and reward landscapes that have preserved the night sky through such dedicated efforts. These spaces need not have pristine skies, but should at least have an inspirational quality relative to the population they serve.

While there are currently numerous dark sky “preserves,” certified by a variety of organizations or municipalities, the IDA, along with international collaborators, has provided minimum criteria for these prestigious designations. A key to these designations, along with inspirational night skies and a commitment to them, is the ability to attract and educate the public on the importance of night skies. A few general requirements of the programs are outlined below.

  • A comprehensive outdoor lighting guideline that dictates night sky friendly fixtures, maximum illumination, and warranting.
  • Declaration of the night sky as a resource and integration into existing management documents.
  • 67% of existing lights conform to guideline, and commitment to bring 100% of lights into conformance.
  • An active educational or “interpretive” public program that shares the night with visitors.
  • Leadership in light pollution prevention by conducting one of a number of various outreach options.

A brief description of the Communities, Parks, and Reserves:

  • Communities: a town, city, municipality, or other legally organized community that has shown exceptional dedication to the preservation of the night sky through the implementation and enforcement of quality lighting codes, dark sky education, and citizen support of dark skies.
  • Parks: a park or other public land possessing exceptional starry night skies and natural nocturnal habitat where light pollution is mitigated and natural darkness is valuable as an important educational, cultural, scenic, and natural resource.
  • Reserves: 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 mission of a large peripheral area. The International Dark Sky Reserve consists of a core area meeting the minimum criteria for sky quality and natural darkness, and a peripheral area that supports dark sky values in the core and receives benefits from them as well. The International Dark Sky Reserve is formed through a partnership of multiple land owners and/or administrators that have recognized the value of the starry night through regulation and/or formal agreement and/or long term planning.

An example of sky quality based for the International Dark Sky Parks:

  • Gold—Near natural conditions, limiting magnitude of 6.8, and Bortle Class 3
  • Silver—Exemplary night sky showing most of the features of a natural sky, limiting magnitude 6.3, and Bortle Class 3-4.
  • Bronze (minimum)—The Milky Way must be visible, limiting magnitude 5.8, and Bortle Class 4-5.

These programs are intended to produce a broader vision in dark sky protection from the protection of pristine areas to the restoration of areas formerly dismissed as a dark sky site to communities striving to make a difference in light pollution, these programs are intended to raise environmental stewardship not only of those in management, but those within the community and the rest of the general public. Dark sky preservation should and must be protected and rewarded, and these programs strive to do just such.

Further information is available on www.darksky.org under the “Policy/Programs,” then “International Dark Sky Communities, Parks, and Reserves.” Or under “Events,” then “IYA2009”