Fighting against Light Pollution with Tourism

Every now and then I mention light pollution on this blog, usually from a biologist's perspective. But here is another perspective - using "dark sky" as a tourist attraction - a place where one can actually see the stars:

Nonetheless, Galloway Forest Park contains the darkest skies in Europe, and Steve Owens, co-coordinator of the IYA plans in the UK, is determined to gain recognition from the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) as a lasting legacy for the 2009 celebrations.

The certification process is challenging. According to the Guardian, "to earn dark sky park status, officials in Galloway will submit digital photographs of the night sky taken through a fisheye lens. Their application must be supported by readings from light meters at different points in the park, and a list of measures that are being taken within the forest to prevent lights in and around the handful of farm buildings from spilling upwards into the sky and ruining the view."

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If one takes a look a dark sky map of the United States you will see a large dark area of SE Oregon, Northern California, and Northern Nevada. The SE Oregon part of this dark sky complex contains the Steens Mountains. The Steens, at an elevation of 9,000+ feet have some of the darkest places I have ever been (the Milky Way will cast a shadow!) and one of the most starkly beautiful places I have ever seen. I go there for the dark nights when I have some unstructured time, so that counts as dark sky tourism. Not to mention the daytime, Pronghorn Antelope, wild horses (including the famed Kigers, considered to be the last remnants of the horses that the Spanish brought to the Americas).

And I can speak of this wonderful place without fear of it becoming a tourist hot spot because it is a hard two day hike in.

By Allen Strong (not verified) on 31 Dec 2008 #permalink