19 February 2013. TUCSON, AZ & BRECON BEACONS, WALES – The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) is proud to announce the designation of the Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales as the world’s fifth International Dark Sky Reserve (IDSR).
All pictures copyright of Michael Sinclair. http://www.michael-sinclair.com
The new Brecon Beacons IDSR is composed of 1,347 km2 (520 mi2) where sheep outnumber people 30 to 1. A secluded utopia for stargazing and appreciating the natural nighttime environment, the IDSR still hosts 33,000 residents and is within easy access of over a million people. The Brecon Beacons Dark Skies project has received support from the Prince of Wales.
Julie James, Chairman of Brecon Beacons National Park Authority, said: “Attaining International Dark Sky Reserve status is a massive boost for the entire area as there are numerous environmental, wildlife, economic, tourism and wellbeing benefits attached to this wonderful accolade.
“I must pay tribute to the Brecon Beacons Park Society, officers from the National Park Authority and our numerous partners for the hard work they have put in to make their dream of a dark sky reserve real. This will safeguard the magical dark skies above the National Park for future generations.”
Brecon Beacons IDSR has been designated at the “Silver Tier” level meaning that while the skies above the park do see some effects from light pollution they are still remarkably dark, making it an excellent place to see the Milky Way and other night sky objects.
The park has gone to great lengths in replacing lighting that used to make it difficult to see the majestic night sky. Within five years the IDSR aims for 100% of the lighting within the core zone to be dark sky friendly meeting the goals of the reserve’s lighting management plan. Communities within the IDSR have been responsive and attentive to the cause, desiring the skies to remain pristine for future generations.
Jim Wilson, Chairman of Brecon Beacons Park Society, said: “I am delighted that the Brecon Beacons National Park has received the award of International Dark Sky Reserve from the International Dark-Sky Association. It recognizes the Park as one of the best places in Europe to see truly dark skies and is a tribute to the work that has been done by the Park Society and National Park Authority partnership to protect this wonderful sight for future generations. My thanks to the communities, businesses, and residents whose involvement and support helped make this possible."
Education efforts have been extensive including regular stargazing events and even dark sky awareness education for students attending all 24 schools within the IDSR borders. Upcoming events include a stargazing event on March 23rd, a solar observing event on July 27th, and more with the Cardiff Astronomical Society and local astronomy societies.
Environment Minister John Griffiths, said: “Becoming Wales’ first International Dark Sky Reserve is a massive coup for the National Park, and I hope other areas follow suit. I’m pleased to see that Brecon Beacons National Park, an area of substantial environmental importance, has been afforded this special designation to protect it against the effects of light pollution. It shows the level of commitment here in Wales to tackling climate change and improving peoples' physical, spiritual and mental well-being.”
IDA’s Executive Director, Bob Parks, backs the decision saying, “I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Brecon Beacons in 2011, as they were preparing their IDSP application. I was impressed by their dedication to preserving the night sky in this wonderful natural setting. Brecon Beacons holds special meaning for me as many of my ancestors came from this region. It is a wonderful addition to the International Dark Sky Reserve program. ”
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IDA established the International Dark Sky Places conservation program in 2001 to recognize excellent stewardship of the night sky. Designations are based on stringent outdoor lighting standards and innovative community outreach. Other IDSRs include Mont-Mégantic in Canada, Exmoor National Park in the UK, NamibRand Nature Reserve in Africa, and Aoraki Mackenzie in New Zealand. Since the program began four communities (in the UK, the Isle of Sark) and ten parks (in the UK, Galloway Forest Park) have also received Dark Sky status.