ENVIRONMENT -- The stars are shining brighter and the glare of lights is a little less disorienting to creatures of the night in Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park this year.
The park straddling the international border into Montana and British Columbia has earned Dark Sky Park recognition from the International Dark Sky Association for ongoing efforts to subdue light pollution.
"Dark skies are integral not only for human health and enjoyment, but play an essential role in wildlife health, park officials say in a joint release. "Unnatural light can disrupt migration and other natural processes, putting wildlife at risk.
"Night skies are also important culturally, and are prominently featured in regional tribal creation stories. Recent studies suggest that upwards of one-third of the world’s population is unable to see the Milky Way due to light pollution around populated areas. The park’s night sky programs are the most popular programs in the park with some Logan Pass star party programs attracting upwards of 700 participants to a single programming event."
More than 30,000 visitors enjoy the night sky programs each season.
Waterton and Glacier parks each have completed a significant number of lighting improvements to reduce light pollution as well as committing to completing further lighting retrofits in the coming years.
To date, Glacier National Park has retrofitted about 29 percent of its fixtures with a goal of increasing that to more than 60 percent in three years with the significant support of the Glacier National Park Conservancy.
"Dark night skies are a source of awe and wonder that many people cannot experience in cities and are integral to the health of nocturnal wildlife," said Waterton Lakes National Park Superintendent Ifan Thomas.
The International Dark Sky Places conservation program originated in 2001 to recognize excellent stewardship of the night sky. Designations are based on stringent outdoor lighting standards and innovative community outreach. Since the program began, 15 communities, 46 parks, 11 reserves, 2 sanctuaries and 3 "Dark Sky Friendly Developments of Distinction" have received International Dark Sky designations.