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International Dark Sky Places program advocacy — A review of 2020–2021 Annual Reports

Borrego Springs Dark Sky Community advocates promoted astrophotography when in-person programs could not be delivered during the pandemic. This images shows one of the community's Sky Art metal sculptures popular with nighttime photographers. Photo credit: Kevin Key

One of the primary goals of an International Dark Sky Place is to encourage communities and protected areas to become environmental leaders by communicating the importance of dark skies to the general public and providing an example of what is possible with proper stewardship.

Depending on the location, resources, experience, and knowledge of staff and volunteers, International Dark Sky Places are committed to providing various types of engaging outreach and education every year. These diverse events incorporate various values, such as astronomy, wildlife, energy efficiency, safety, and human health. However, as we saw over the last few years, the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to adapt to keep the dark-sky initiative going.

Despite this novel disturbance, a review of nearly 150 International Dark Sky Place 2020–2021 Annual Reports revealed spectacular examples of creativity and persistence. As we close out our review cycle and reflect on the work of our program Advocates, it is clear that the dark sky initiative is alive and well despite the significant worldly challenges that we all face. With the help of our Advocates’ diligence and perseverance, we are starting to reframe the way we are approaching the program to increase its global reach and impact, such as incorporating our holistic Values-Centered Approach, as well as enhancing our vision through the inspiration of our advocates and International Dark Sky Place candidates.

Annual Reports for all certified Places are available on each Place’s page. While it is impossible to publicize all of their hard work in a short blog, we can showcase a selection of our advocates’ work that we feel exemplifies the goals and mission of the program, as well as embodies the core values of DarkSky International and the global dark-sky movement.

Follow the links below to learn more about these sites and discover creative ways to celebrate, support, and protect our dark skies.


Presentation of information to the public in creative and engaging ways

Snowdonia National Park (Wales)

Advocates launched a mobile observatory that offers easy-to-use Celestron telescopes and binoculars, camping mats, bat recorders, moth traps, and more. This observatory makes it easy to reach a wide audience.
2021 Annual Report

Advocates at Snowdonia National Park Dark Sky Park in Wales created a mobile observatory equipped with everything anyone would need for a fun-filled night of stargazing. Photo credit: Dani Robertson.

Exmoor National Park (England)

The Exmoor National Park Authority developed a 2-mile-long Dark Sky Discovery Trail in rural Exmoor. The trail takes visitors on a safe nighttime adventure with 360-degree views and educational waysides.
2021 Annual Report

Westhavelland (Germany)

Advocates developed glow-in-the-dark information board prototypes to be installed at a public observation place showing star maps, observing hints, polar star finder, and information about the Reserve.
2021 Annual Report

Pic du Midi (France)

Pic du Midi advocates are developing the Windows to the Universe exhibit to publicly interpret the night sky at sites throughout the region. Each developed site will allow the public to discover the Reserve and the potential for a natural tourism experience across the landscape.
2021 Annual Report

Gabriela Mistral (Chile)

The Associated Universities for Research in Astronomy Observatory (AURA) Communications department in Chile conducts activities aimed at promoting actions to mitigate the impact of light pollution in our cities and natural environment. This is done through online events, talks, and campaigns, such as Globe at Night, AstroDay Chile, Viaje al Universo, and the “En Vivo desde NOIRLab@Chile” on Youtube.
2021 Annual Report

Borrego Springs, California (U.S.)

The weekly Farmer’s Market is the Coalition’s main outreach to the community. For 14 weeks in the winter and spring, a display is set up from 8 a.m. until noon. The exhibit attracts visitors and residents curious to learn more about good outdoor lighting, see samples of recommended fixtures, ask questions about their specific property, check on upcoming stargazing events, and find out more about what it means to be a Dark Sky Community.
2021 Annual Report

Outreach and Education/Training

Finding common ground through learning:

Brecon Beacons (Wales)
Cranborne Chase (England)
Kerry (Ireland)

These Places hosted multiple successful virtual and mixed in-person/virtual astronomy and dark-sky advocacy events to help raise awareness about light pollution and encourage involvement in dark-sky conservation.
Brecons 2021 Annual Report
Cranborne 2021 Annual Report
Kerry 2021 Annual Report

Alpes Azur Mercantour (France)

A socio-professional training cycle was organized to facilitate the development of dark-sky-oriented actions targeted toward visitors and residents alike. Topics ranged from astronomy, nighttime biodiversity, light pollution, to public lighting.
2021 Annual Report

Central Idaho (U.S.)

Steve Pauley, DarkSky Advocate, and Travis Longcore, PhD, Associate Professor, UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES), led a student practicum to evaluate light pollution. Students gathered data and shared a project update at the IoES public forum.
2021 Annual Report

Cévennes National Park (France)

Park agents helped school teachers develop environmental projects, and the theme this year was night. Students gave presentations on dark-sky friendly lighting as a way to help preserve biodiversity and the stars
2021 Annual Report

Voyageurs National Park (U.S.)

In 2020, Voyageurs Conservancy piloted its first live dark-sky virtual classroom lessons including the impacts of light pollution on wildlife and ways to protect our starry skies. To encourage social and emotional learning, elementary students were encouraged to explore their own connection to the night sky and learn about the diverse cultural stories of constellations.
2021 Annual Report

Lighting Retrofits and Projects

Improving quality of life through good lighting practices

Mont-Megantic (Québec)

Seven municipalities changed over 1,000 public lights to Amber LED fixtures that emit 0% uplight and less than 1% blue wavelengths. For privately-owned lighting, the Reserve created the Objective Starry Sky project that includes eco-lighting consulting services, inventories of existing exterior lighting, regulation conformity assessments, and a proposal of replacement solutions and promoting collaboration among corporate citizens.
2021 Annual Report

Fountain Hills, Arizona (U.S.)

Volunteers tested and applied paint to reflective surfaces on 288 bollards in a public park, effectively reducing glare and upward light by 90%. Lead volunteer Ted Blank was recognized for his work by receiving a Dark Sky Defender distinction.
2021 Annual Report

Aoraki Mackenzie (New Zealand)
Cranborne Chase (England)
Wimberley Valley, Texas (U.S.)

These Places promote “Dark Sky Business” accreditation programs to encourage voluntary participation in adopting dark-sky and community-friendly lighting.
Aoraki Mackenzie 2021 Annual Report
Cranborne Chase 2021 Annual Report
Wimberley Valley 2021 Annual Report

Flagstaff, Arizona (U.S.)

The majority of the exterior illumination at the Flagstaff Airport and City Hall have been retrofitted or replaced with narrow-spectrum amber LEDs. The Dark Sky Compliance Specialist, working in conjunction with City Facilities, also developed a replace and retrofit plan for City fire stations.
2021 Annual Report

The City of Flagstaff Dark Sky Compliance Specialist partnered with a local lighting retailer and advocates to endorse dark-sky friendly lighting with this specially designed sticker.

Public Policy and Community Relations

Engagement to benefit everyone

Galloway Forest Park (Scotland)

The Stay the Night initiative safely accommodated self-contained campervans and motorhomes for travelers and provided dark-sky enjoyment opportunities, while relieving pressure on community resources and bringing in revenue during the height of the pandemic.
2021 Annual Report

Wimberley Valley, Texas (U.S.)
Cottonwood, Arizona (U.S.)

Advocates issued flyers to utility providers and city officials providing reminders and information about how to maximize outdoor lighting compliance with dark-sky friendly practices.
Wimberly 2021 Annual Report
Cottonwood 2021 Annual Report

Mayo Dark Sky Park (Ireland)

A five-year development plan for Mayo Dark Sky Park is currently in progress with key stakeholders from National Parks and Wildlife, Fáilte Ireland Tourism, and Mayo County Council. This partnership allows the Park to guide quality lighting efforts, such as developing a County Development Plan and retrofitting lighting on the national secondary route (N59) surrounding the Park, effectively reducing wasted light.
2021 Annual Report

South Downs National Park
Northumberland National Park and Kielder Water and Forest Park (England)

Following a consultation in which over 170 academics, legal professionals, and national park authorities participated, the All-party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Dark Skies published its much anticipated ‘Ten Dark Sky Policies for the Government’ in 2021. It sets out the major causes of growing light pollution in the UK which threatens dark sky preservation and advocates for policy solutions.
South Downs 2021 Annual Report
Northumberland 2021 Annual Report

Sky Quality and Community Science

Tracking change and gaining knowledge

River Murray (Australia)

Reserve advocates move to support Professor Zoltá Kolláth’s proposal to develop dark-sky data repositories and establish consistent data collection protocols for research. The United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space and the International Astronomical Union will publish their Recommendations to Keep Dark and Quiet Skies for Science and Society, which contains his proposal.
2021 Annual Report

Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute (U.S.)

Staff developed a website that presents the Park’s sky quality data to the public. They also created an interactive display about their sky quality and good lighting practices.
2021 Annual Report

Eifel National Park (Germany)

Advocates developed the Eifel by Night project to train volunteers to become nighttime tour guides to educate the public about healthy nocturnal environments.
2021 Annual Report

Fulda (Germany)

Advocates held Dark Sky City tours and are experimenting extensively with adaptive community lighting. They have installed Telescope Encoder and Sky Sensor (TESS) devices to monitor sky brightness at sites in Fulda.
2021 Annual Report

Advocates installed 10 telescope pads on community lands distributed throughout the River Murray Dark Sky Reserve. The pads come with signage with latitude and longitude coordinates and information about the Reserve. Photo credit: Chris Tugwell.

Environment and Wildlife Protection

Protecting natural resources for all

Valley de Oro National Wildlife Refuge (U.S.)

Advocates consulted with the City of Albuquerque on a Climate Action Plan and worked with the city’s sustainability office on dark-sky lighting ideas. They also consulted with Bernalillo County and the local government to include dark-sky friendly lighting in their planning.
2021 Annual Report

Rhön (Germany)

German Bundestag passed the Insect Diversity Protection Act intending to reduce light pollution. Reserve advocates evaluated numerous studies on the effect of artificial light on insects and have published their recommendations.
2021 Annual Report

Alpes Azur Mercantour (France)

Events throughout the Reserve focused on bats and other nocturnal species to raise awareness about the impact of light pollution on wildlife.
2021 Annual Report

Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (U.S.)

U.S. Forest Service staff created a “Dark Sky Etiquette” flyer to encourage visitors to be respectful of the nocturnal environment when stargazing.
2021 Annual Report

Kozushima Island (Japan)

By retrofitting 100% of the public lighting in Kozushima Village with DarkSky Approved fixtures, the island improved critical nesting habitat for endangered sea turtle species and allowed nesting to occur for the first time in nearly a decade.
2021 Annual Report

Art and Culture

Inspiration through exploration, creativity, and heritage

Aotea / Great Barrier Reef (New Zealand)

Motairehe Marae organized a successful Matariki night with speakers and traditional food. Matariki celebrations take place in mid-winter and mark the start of the new year in the Māori lunar calendar.
2021 Annual Report

Thunder Mountain Pootseev Nightsky (U.S.)

For the Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians, blending their cultural beliefs with dark skies goes hand in hand. The tribe’s goal is to bring back nighttime winter stories not only about their night skies but stories that have not been told for many generations.
2021 Annual Report

Westcliffe and Silver Cliff, Colorado (U.S.)

Advocates hosted a school art contest where winners were showcased in the local paper as half-page color ads.
2021 Annual Report

Cherry Springs State Park (U.S.)

Curt Weinhold, a PA Wilds Juried Artisan, hosted public astrophotography workshops that focused on the basics of nocturnal landscape photography using DSLR cameras.
2021 Annual Report

Capitol Reef National Park (U.S.)

Capitol Reef began an Artist in Residence (AiR) program in 2017. David Hunter served as the 2021-night sky photographer artist using his craft to promote stewardship of the land and awareness of its cultural and natural history
2021 Annual Report

Wimberley Valley Dark Sky Community advocate, Travis Martin, designed this sticker that is given out at public events to inspire awareness of natural dark skies.

There is no single way to be a successful advocate. As our annual reviews remind us, it takes passion, creativity, and tenacity to influence people and affect lasting change. Our advocates do it all — everything from hosting engaging outreach events to developing effective outdoor lighting policies for growing communities. DarkSky sends a heartfelt THANK YOU to all of our hard-working dark-sky advocates for another year of incredible work!

We hope their work inspires you as much as it does us! If you feel as energized as we are to connect with people around the world and promote the protection of dark skies and the nocturnal environment, make sure to join our Dark Sky Advocates Network or support DarkSky and our Dark Sky Places program by becoming a member.