An area spanning more than 3,600 square kilometers (1,400 square miles) in central Idaho, U.S., has been designated as the nation’s first International Dark Sky Reserve. IDA today announced the accreditation of the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve, the first of its kind in the United States and one of just 12 such reserves worldwide.
“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. “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.”
The Reserve stretches from Ketchum/Sun Valley to Stanley, including lands in Blaine, Custer and Elmore Counties and the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. It is the third-largest International Dark Sky Reserve in the world.
“The Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve was created not just for locals, but for all Idahoans and visitors from across the world who can come here and experience the primeval wonder of the starry night sky,” said Steve Botti, the Mayor of Stanley and longtime advocate of the Reserve.
The decision by IDA culminates nearly two decades of work and policy decisions by local leaders, residents and business leaders to manage and reduce the impact light pollution can have on the region’s night skies and nocturnal environment.
Supporters of the reserve say the vast area now between Stanley and Ketchum will ideally help combat the use of artificial light that adversely affects the environment and can have negative and deadly effects on a variety of creatures, including amphibians, birds, mammals, insects and plants.
IDA’s Reserve designation requires public and private lands to possess an exceptional or distinguished quality of night sky, view of the stars and nocturnal environment. Reserves can only be formed through partnerships of multiple land managers who have recognized the value of quality nighttime environment through regulation and long-term planning.
The Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve represents the work and commitment by the cities of Ketchum, Sun Valley and Stanley, along with Blaine County, the Idaho Conservation League, businesses, private land owners and public land managers to protect and promote the region’s dark skies and remarkable stargazing opportunities.
“This is the culmination of a lot of work, important policy decisions and commitment by so many to manage our light pollution,” said Nina Jonas, mayor of Ketchum, which earned International Dark Sky Community status earlier this year. “We’re pleased what this says about the commitment our communities have shown to protecting our environment and spectacular window to the universe.”
The IDA also granted the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve “Gold Tier” status, the highest level of a semi-objective system used by IDA to rank the quality of the night sky. Under IDA guidelines, Gold-tier status is generally reserved for the darkest skies, with only a small amount of light pollution tolerated.
“This region deserves to be designated a dark sky reserve. 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,” said Dr. Stephen Pauley, a Ketchum resident and longtime advocate for dark skies. “We should all feel good about this and take a moment to think about the benefit this leaves for generations to follow.”