A dark sky preserve is an area, usually surrounding a park or observatory, that is kept free of artificial light pollution. The purpose of a dark sky preserve is generally to promote astronomy. Because different national organizations have worked independently to create their programs, different terms have been used to describe the areas. This has led to confusion between the terms reserve, preserve, and park. The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) chooses reserve to avoid confusion with park, when using the acronyms "IDSR" (International Dark Sky Reserve) and "IDSP" (International Dark Sky Park).
In 1999, the first permanent preserve was established at Torrance Barrens in the Muskoka region of southern Ontario. Nevertheless, protection zones around observatories existed well before the creation of that preserve.
The IDA recognizes protected areas outside the United States. The Mont Mégantic Observatory in Quebec is the first such site to be recognized (in 2007) as International Dark Sky Reserve. IDA has also recognized Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah as the world's first International Dark Sky Park.
Canada has established an extensive standard for dark sky preserves that addresses lighting within the DSP and influences from skyglow from urban areas in the region. This was based on the work of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. There are no other established standards for dark sky preserves. Outside Canada, such designations are generally through self-proclamation. As a result, the validity of such a designation may be dubious. In some cases, dark sky preserves are neither dark nor protected.
It is generally understood that a Dark Sky Preserve, or Dark Sky Reserve, should be sufficiently dark to promote astronomy. However this is not always the case. The lighting protocol for a Dark Sky Preserve is based on the sensitivity of wildlife to artificial light at night (ALAN). The lighting protocol for the RASC is based primarily on wildlife sensitivity.
Dark Sky Places
The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) 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.
Dark Sky Preserves, Reserves and Parks
|Country||Name||Location||Area (in ha)||Bortle Scale||Status||Notes|
|Canada||Wood Buffalo National Park||Alberta/NWT||4,480,700||1-2||UNESCO World Heritage||Designated on June 28, 2013|
|Canada||North Frontenac Township||Ontario||116,000||1-2||Designated on June 28, 2013|
|Canada||Jasper National Park||Alberta||1,122,800||1-2||Designated on Mar. 11, 2011|
|Canada||Cypress Hills||Saskatchewan/Alberta||39,600||2||Designated on Sep. 28, 2004|
|Canada||Beaver Hills||Alberta||29,300||4.5||Designated on Sep. 3, 2006|
|Hungary||Zselic Landscape Protection Area||9,042||3–4||Designated on Nov. 16, 2009|
|Canada||Mont Mégantic Observatory||Quebec||527,500||2–3||Reserve||Designated Sept. 2007; first IDA International Dark-Sky Reserve|
|Canada||Réserve faunique La Vérendrye||Quebec||13,615 km2||1|||
|Canada||McDonald Park (Abbotsford)||British Columbia||5||2–3||Designated in 2003|
|Canada||Gordon's Park||Ontario||43.7||2–3||Designated on Aug. 15, 2009; designation is only for the Park though Manitoulin Island (276,611 ha) follows dark-sky practices|
|Canada||Bruce Peninsula Fathom Five National Marine Park||Ontario||16,700||2–3||Designated on Mar. 29, 2009|
|Canada||Point Pelee National Park||Ontario||2,000||3–4||Designated in 2006|
|Canada||Torrance Barrens||Ontario||1906||3||Designated in 1999; first Canadian Dark-Sky Preserve|
|Canada||Cattle Point||Oak Bay, British Columbia||5||Urban Star Park||Designated March 29, 2013|
|Canada||Grasslands National Park||Saskatchewan||92,100||1–2||Designated on Oct. 2, 2009|
|Canada||Kouchibouguac National Park||New Brunswick||23,920||2||Designated on Jun. 6, 2009|
|Canada||Mount Carleton Provincial Park||New Brunswick||17,427||2||Designated on Jul. 18, 2009|
|Canada||Kejimkujik National Park||Nova Scotia||40,400||2||Designated on Aug. 7, 2010|
|USA||Lake Hudson State Recreation Area||Michigan||890||3||Designated in 1993|
|USA||Natural Bridges National Monument||Utah||251 ac.||2||Dark-sky Park||Designated in 2007; first International Dark-Sky Park|
|USA||Potawatomi Wildlife Park||Indiana||116||4.5||Designated in 2003|
|USA||Cherry Springs State Park||Pennsylvania||20||2||Designated as a State DSP in 2000 by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) and as the second International DSP by the IDA on June 11, 2007.|
||Ohio||418.5||?||Designated on Aug. 20, 2011|
|USA||Copper Breaks||Texas||770||Designated Aug. 6, 2014|
|USA||Enchanted Rock||Texas||665||Designated Aug. 6, 2014|
|USA||Dripping Springs||Texas||Dark-sky Community||Designated February 11, 2014 |
|USA||Big Bend National Park||Texas||324,219 ac||Dark-sky Park||Designated February 11, 2012 |
|USA||Clayton Lake||New Mexico||69||Designated June 29, 2010 |
|USA||Goldendale Observatory||Washington||2||Designated June 29, 2010 |
|USA||Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park||Colorado||124.4 km2||Dark-sky Park||Designated 2015|
|USA||Canyonlands National Park||Utah||1365 km2||Dark-sky Park||Designated 2015|
|USA||Capitol Reef National Park||Utah||980 km2||Dark-sky Park||Designated 2015|
|USA||Death Valley National Park||California||13,743 km2||Dark-sky Park||Designated 2013|
|USA||Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument||Arizona||4,242 km2||Dark-sky Park||Designated 2014|
|USA||Hovenweep National Monument||Colorado, Utah||3.1 km2||Dark-sky Park||Designated 2014|
|USA||Chaco Culture National Historical Park||New Mexico||13759 km2||2-3||Dark-sky Park||Designated on Aug. 28, 2013|
|UK||Galloway Forest Park||Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland||75,000||3||Designated on Nov. 16, 2009|
|Poland, Czech Republic||Izera Dark-Sky Park||Lower Silesia, Poland
Liberec Region, Czech Republic
|7,500||3-4||Designated on Nov. 4, 2009; the first European dark-sky park and the first world's bilateral dark-sky park|
|Slovakia||Poloniny Dark-Sky Park||Poloniny National Park||48,519||2-3||Designated on Dec. 3, 2010|
|Hungary||Hortobagy Starry Sky Park||10,000||?||Designated on Jan. 31, 2011; IDA's third international dark-sky park (Silver tier)|
|UK||Sark||British Crown Dependency of Guernsey||545||3||Designated on Jan. 31, 2011; IDA's first international dark-sky island (Silver tier)|
|Canada||Irving Nature Park Urban Star Park||Saint John, New Brunswick||243||?||Urban Star Park||Designated on Jul. 1, 2011; First RASC-designated Urban Star Park|
|UK||Exmoor National Park||Devon & Somerset, England||Reserve||Designated 10 October 2011|
|Canada||Fundy National Park||New Brunswick||20,700||2||Designated on Oct. 31, 2011|
|New Zealand||Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park||Tekapo||430,000||2||Reserve||Designated on 9 June 2012|
|Canada||Bluewater Outdoor Education Centre||Ontario||129||2||Designated on Nov. 3, 2012 by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada|
|Namibia||NamibRand Nature Reserve||Reserve||Designated ???|
|UK||Brecon Beacons||Wales||Reserve||Designated 19 February 2013|
|Czech Republic, Slovakia||Beskydy Dark-Sky Park||Moravian-Silesian Region, Czech Republic
Čadca District, Slovakia
|30,800||3-4||Designated on Mar. 4, 2013; The second world's bilateral dark-sky park|
|Poland||Bieszczady Starry-Sky Park||Subcarpathia||113,846.5||2-3||Designated on Mar. 8, 2013|
|UK||Northumberland National Park||Northumberland, England||103,000||Designated on Dec. 9, 2013|
|UK||Isle of Coll||Inner Hebrides, Scotland||Designated on Dec. 9, 2013|
|Ireland||Iveragh Peninsula||County Kerry||Designated an IDA International Dark Sky Reserve on Jan. 27, 2014|
|Germany||Westhavelland Nature Park||Brandenburg||Designated an IDA International Dark Sky Reserve on Feb. 12, 2014|
|Czech Republic||Manětín Dark-Sky Park||Plzeň Region||34,600||3-5||Designated on Sep. 15, 2014|
|Slovakia||Veľká Fatra Dark-Sky Park||Veľká Fatra National Park (part of)||325||3-4||Designated on Jun. 12, 2015|
|Name||Country||Radius (in km)|
|Mont Mégantic Observatory||Canada||50|
|Monte Ekar Observatory||Italy||30|
|Asiago Astrophysical Observatory||Italy||30|
|Observatoire de Haute-Provence||France||15|
|Ondřejov Observatory||Czech Republic||10|
|Dominion Astrophysical Observatory||Canada||5|
|Mount John University Observatory||New Zealand|
Some regions, like the following, are protected without any reference to an observatory or a park.
- Regions of Coquimbo, Atacama, and Antofagasta in northern Chile
- The island of La Palma of the Canary Islands
- The Big Island of Hawaii
Dark-sky preserves by country
In the Canadian program, lighting within the area must be strictly controlled to minimize the impact of artificial lighting on wildlife. These guidelines are more stringent than in other countries that lack the extensive wilderness areas that still exist in Canada. The management of a Canadian DSP extends their outreach programs from the public that visit the site to include the promotion of better lighting policies in surrounding urban areas. Currently, Dark-Sky Preserves have more control over internal and external lighting than other Programs.
With the increase in regional light pollution, some observatories have actively worked with cities in their region to establish protection zones where there is controlled light pollution. These areas may not yet have been declared Dark-Sky Preserves.
Although Dark-Sky Preserve designations are generally sought by astronomers, it is clear that preserving natural darkness has positive effects on the health of nocturnal wildlife within the parks. For example, the nocturnal Black-footed ferret was reintroduced to the Grasslands National Park Dark-sky Preserve and the success of the reintroduction is enhanced by the pristine natural darkness maintained within the park by the DSP agreement.
- "Rise of the Milky Way". Retrieved 8 June 2015.
- "First International Dark Sky Reserve Is Announced in Québec!" (PDF). International Dark-Sky Association. 2007-09-21. Retrieved 2008-11-26.
- "Utah’s Natural Bridges National Monument Becomes First International Dark Sky Park" (PDF). International Dark-Sky Association. 2007-04-19. Retrieved 2008-11-26.
- "Wood Buffalo National Park". Parks Canada. 2013-08-03. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
- Thompson, Deborah (2013-08-02). "RASC Designates Wood Buffalo National Park as a New Dark Sky Preserve". RASC Announcements. Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Retrieved 2013-08-03.
- "Jasper National Park named world’s largest dark sky preserve". Parks Canada. 2011-03-11. Retrieved 2011-03-15.
- "Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park Designated as a Dark Sky Preserve". Government of Saskatchewan. 2004-10-08. Retrieved 2008-11-17.
- "the Mt. Megantic IDSR". AstroLab du park national du Mt. Megantic. Retrieved 2011-10-06.
- "La Verendrye Wildlife Reserve". SEPAQ. Retrieved 2011-10-06.
- "Gordon's Park Dark Sky Preserve". Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. November 2008. Retrieved 2010-11-18.
-  Cattle Point National Urban Star Park Approved, BC Meteor Network news release, March 29, 2013]
- "Dark Sky Preserve designation for Grasslands National Park". Parks Canada. 2009-10-02. Retrieved 2010-12-01.
- "Kouchibouguac National Park a Dark Sky Preserve". Parks Canada. 2009-06-06. Retrieved 2010-12-03.
- "Designation requires limited artificial light to protect night skies from light pollution". CanadaEast.com. 2009-07-18. Retrieved 2010-12-03.
- "Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site a Dark Sky Preserve". Parks Canada. 2010-08-07. Retrieved 2010-12-03.
- "Lake Hudson Recreation Area". Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment. Retrieved 2010-12-01.
- Clanton & Associates (May 27, 2008). "Cherry Springs State Park: Light Pollution Analysis and Recommendations" (PDF). Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Retrieved March 21, 2009.
- "New Ohio Park Commended for Protecting the Nighttime Environment by International Dark-Sky Association (press release)" (PDF). International Dark-Sky Association. August 22, 2011. Retrieved July 18, 2012.
- Stars Shine Bright in Dark Sky Parks, Texas Highways, Aug. 6, 2014
- Dripping Springs Named The First International Dark Sky Community In Texas, Texas Hill Country Trail newsletter, March 2014
- Big Bend National Park designated as an International Dark Sky Park, Earth Sky, Feb. 11, 2012
- International Dark Sky Association Recognizes state parks in New Mexico and Washington for night sky preservation efforts, International Dark-Sky Association news release, June 29, 2010
- "Chaco Culture National Historical Park International Dark Sky Park Application" (PDF). National Park Service. July 2013. Retrieved January 9, 2015.
- "New Mexican Skies Protected with Dark Sky Park Designation (press release)" (PDF). International Dark-Sky Association. August 28, 2013. Retrieved January 9, 2015.
- Carrell, Severin (2009-11-16). "Astronomers name Scottish park one of world's best stargazing sites". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-11-16.
- "Izera Dark-Sky Park". 2009.
- "Poloniny Dark-Sky Park". 2010.
- "Fundy National Park a Dark Sky Preserve". Parks Canada. 2009-06-06. Retrieved 2012-01-24.
- An Application to the International Dark-Sky Association for a Starlight Reserve in the Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park and the Mackenzie Basin of the central South Island of New Zealand (PDF). Mackenzie District Council, University of Canterbury, Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand, Department of Conservation. 27 January 2012. p. 25.
- "New Zealand’s Aoraki Mackenzie Named World’s Largest International Dark Sky Reserve" (PDF). International Dark Sky Association. 9 June 2012. Retrieved 13 June 2012.
- McCrone, John (9 June 2012). "Stars in their eyes". The Press. pp. C1–C3. Retrieved 3 March 2013.
- "Beskydy Dark-Sky Park". 2013.
- "Bieszczady Starry-Sky Park". 2013.
- "Dark sky status awarded to Northumberland Park area". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-12-09.
- "Isle of Coll secures 'dark isle' status". bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2013-12-09.
- "Southwest Kerry area receives dark skies designation". irishtimes.com. Retrieved 2014-03-03.
- "Sterne Sehen Ohne Lichtverschmutzung: Deutschlands Dunkelkammer". berliner-zeitung.de. Retrieved 2014-03-03.
- "Manětín Dark-Sky Park". 2014.
- "Park tmavej oblohy Kráľova studňa". www.fatranskatma.sk. Retrieved 2015-09-17.
- "Government of Canada reintroduces lost species to the prairie wilderness". Parks Canada. 2009-10-02. Retrieved 2010-12-01.