Area in Idaho Awarded First Dark Sky Reserve Designation in the US

The Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve: 1,416 square miles of light-pollution-free land.

Earlier this year, townspeople and officials from an area in south-central Idaho applied to be the first International Dark Sky Reserve in the United States. It was announced this week that the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) accepted their application and were awarded the Dark Sky Reserve designation for 1,416 square miles.

Stanley Lake within the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve offers up plenty of views of the Milky Way. Photo: Courtesy of Eddie Yip/Flickr

The Central Idaho Dark Reserve is only one of 12 such Reserves throughout the world. Encompassing an area that includes Ketchum/Sun Valley to Stanley and the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, it is the third-largest International Dark Sky Reserve in the world.

“The importance of today’s achievement to the dark-skies movement in the United States cannot be understated,” IDA Executive Director J. Scott Feierabend said in the press release announcing the decision.

“Given the complexity of International Dark Sky Reserve nominations and the rigor of the protections that IDA requires for this honor, this is certainly a watershed moment in the history of American conservation,” Feierabend continued.

The Reserve was also awarded Gold-tier status, the highest level in the system the IDA uses to rank the quality of the night sky. It took nearly two decades of work, coordination and support-gathering for the area to be given the designation.

Dark Sky Reserves generally require many different land managers in the surrounding areas to curb light pollution to the bare minimum, which neighboring towns to the area in Idaho have banned together to turn lights off at night, create new policies, switch out to lower-emitting streetlights and various other undertakings that were no small tasks.

“This region deserves to be designated a dark sky reserve,” said Dr. Stephen Pauley, a Ketchum resident and longtime advocate for dark skies. “Citizens and city leaders, planners and business owners all had a hand in achieving this goal and preserving our quality view of the world above.

“We should all feel good about this and take a moment to think about the benefit this leaves for generations to follow.”

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