The Dark Sky Places Program was started by IDA in 2001 to encourage communities around the world to preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting polices and public education. As of late 2014, IDA has certified 42 Dark Sky Places, extending protection of dark skies to 43,100 square kilometers (16,640 square miles) in nine countries on four continents.
The Dark Sky Places program offers five types of designations:
- International Dark Sky Communities
Communities are legally organized cities and towns that adopt quality outdoor lighting ordinances and undertake efforts to educate residents about the importance of dark skies.
- International Dark Sky Parks
Parks are publicly- or privately-owned spaces protected for natural conservation that implement good outdoor lighting and provide dark sky programs for visitors.
- International Dark Sky Reserves
Reserves consist of a dark “core” zone surrounded by a populated periphery where policy controls are enacted to protect the darkness of the core.
- International Dark Sky Sanctuaries
Sanctuaries are the most remote (and often darkest) places in the world whose conservation state is most fragile.
- Dark Sky Developments of Distinction
Developments of Distinction recognize subdivisions, master planned communities, and unincorporated neighborhoods and townships whose planning actively promotes a more natural night sky but does not qualify them for the International Dark Sky Community designation.
How are Dark Sky Places designated?
IDA designates Dark Sky Places following a rigorous application process requiring applicants to demonstrate robust community support for dark sky protection and document designation-specific program requirements.
Applications are reviewed bimonthly by an IDA standing committee composed of dark sky experts and previously successful program applicants. Regular status updates ensure that designated places continue their commitment to dark sky preservation.
Upon certification, IDA works with certified places to promote their work through media relations, member communications, and social media. A Dark Sky Places designation helps enhance the visibility of designated locations and foster increased tourism and local economic activity.