Tell us about the work you are doing to create a wilder world.
Wyoming Stargazing is raising awareness about the dangers of light pollution and bringing attention to our most commonly overlooked natural resource, our dark night skies. Today, less than 75% of Americans have seen the arms of the Milky Way Galaxy. The citizens of Jackson, Wyoming will fall into that category if we do not act soon. This project will help resuscitate and sustain our dark night skies for generations to come.
Jackson is a small town, but its light pollution has become a big problem. As of 2015, light pollution in Jackson (population about 16,000) is nearly the same as Flagstaff, Arizona (population 65,000). Even though dark skies exist a few miles away from downtown Jackson, within town the arms of the Milky Way Galaxy are barely visible because of light pollution. There are multiple human health risks associated with excess artificial light at night including, but not limited to: increased cancer risk, depression, type 2 diabetes, and insomnia. Poorly shielded street lights and commercial lights present increased risks to commuters and wildlife on the roadside because of decreased visibility from glare, in addition to providing criminals a place to hide. Migrating birds, insects, bats, other mammals, and plants are all adversely impacted by unshielded lights and over powered lights. Moreover, there are significant economic losses due to poorly designed exterior lighting.
In 2017, the Jackson Town Council and the Teton County Board of Commissioners both unanimously passed the revised exterior lighting standard that Wyoming Stargazing authored. This helps to reduce future increases in light pollution and paves the way for Jackson to become a Dark Sky Community.
Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park have both expressed interest in pursuing Dark Sky Park status from the International Dark Sky Association. Dr. Bryan Boulanger, his students from the Ohio Northern University, and Wyoming Stargazing completed the necessary sky brightness measurements in Yellowstone and Grand Teton and completed a lighting inventory of Yellowstone.
Wyoming Stargazing with support from Bryan Boulanger has begun a lighting inventory of Grand Teton National Park with field assistance from the Jackson Hole Community School and the Teton Science Schools.
The NASA DEVELOP National Program has partnered with Wyoming Stargazing to promote Light Pollution Awareness in Grand Teton National Park towards the aim of Grand Teton becoming a certified Dark Sky Park.
How can others help you accomplish these goals?
We need support in many different areas. First, we need more people talking about light pollution to their friends, family, and their elected officials. People can become volunteers for our campaign by signing up on our website. From there they can also download the instructions to participate in our ongoing citizen science project to collect light pollution data in Jackson Hole.
We also need financial support to purchase equipment for light pollution case studies and to print educational materials. Donations can be made through our website or through our Crowdrise site.
What are five (5) of your short term goals to accomplish in the next 1-2 years?
1. Have appropriate language for dark sky certification included in Teton County’s Land Development Regulations (LDRs)
2. Make dark sky lighting hardware available locally
3. Collect quantitative data on Jackson’s current light pollution status
4. Grow volunteer base
5. Launch effective citizen science campaign to collect further data
What are five (5) of your long term goals to accomplish in the next 5-10 years?
1. Obtain Dark Sky Certification for Teton County and Jackson
2. Obtain Dark Sky Certification for Grand Teton National Park
3. Obtain Dark Sky Certification for the greater Yellowstone Area
4. Decrease level of light pollution in Jackson from a 5 to a 4 on the Bortle Scale
5. Decrease level of light pollution in GTNP from a 3 to a 2 on the Bortle Scale
What have been some successes you have had?
Teton County and the Town of Jackson have been very receptive to our requests to update the exterior lighting standard that is current part of the Land Development Regulations. They assigned Town and County planners to work with us on that effort. We have also received many words of positive encouragement from local citizens.
What are some lessons you have learned/what would you have done differently?
We are learning a lot about organizing events, getting momentum going, and keeping it going. We need to keep where our organization is in its development and our capacity in mind as we plan our next event. Having a bigger volunteer base will also be crucial to our success.
Have there been any major (or minor) milestones in your work?
We are rapidly approaching a big milestone. Hopefully, in the next few months Teton County will adopt our proposed amendments to the exterior lighting standard in the Land Development Regulations.
We can help the entire community see that restoring and sustaining our dark skies is the easy, safe, healthy, ecological, and economically sustainable best choice.
We need more people talking about light pollution to their friends, family, and their elected officials.
This project is a win-win for our entire community.
The Save Our Night Skies campaign will help resuscitate and sustain our dark night skies for generations to come.