A coalition of local communities, federal agencies, and organizations are working together to create what would be one of the world’s largest dark sky designated areas. 

San Luis Valley Great Outdoors (SLV GO!) is spearheading this effort to help establish an International Dark Sky Reserve that would encompass over 4,200 square miles in south-ventral Colorado, with the Sangre de Cristo Mountains at its core.

Join the Alamosa Dark Sky Task Force and become a dark sky advocate in your community by implementing dark sky lighting practices, measuring light pollution, participating in dark sky outreach, and making recommendations to Alamosa for reducing light pollution. 

Through community partnership and reforming of lighting ordinances, formal agreements, and long-term planning, SLV GO! intends to submit an application to the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) by the end of 2022 to create the Sangre de Cristo Dark Sky Reserve.

Dark skies benefit communities through energy and cost savings, increased tourism and economic benefits, and improved public health and safety.

Dark sky designations have been found to be an effective marketing tool providing new and unique ways to draw visitors, especially outside of peak season. Lindsay Diamond, the chief storyteller of VistaWorks, the marketing agency behind the “Colorado Stargazing: Experience the Night” dark sky tour, said the Town of Westcliffe saw a lodging increase of 20 percent one summer after marketing for stargazing. Overnight stays lead to people putting more money into the local economy through lodging, dining, and entertainment.

The Sangre de Cristo Dark Sky Coalition has been taking sky quality measurements throughout the region to record the pristine quality of our night skies. The region is still lucky enough to experience the Milky Way, a dark sky characteristic that 80 percent of Americans can’t see clearly due to the widespread presence of light pollution. Not only does light pollution disrupt our view of starry skies, but a large body of research demonstrates that light pollution disorients migrating birds and has a host of impacts on fish, mammals, amphibians, invertebrates and plants. Light pollution also suppresses melatonin secretion, impairs our sleep, and may be associated with serious health concerns like cardiovascular disease, and cancer.

Artificial light has become an essential part of our modern, urban landscape. The Sangre de Cristo Dark Sky Coalition is working hard to engage decision makers to adopt responsible lighting policies.

Recommendations follow the IDA’s 5 lighting principles that help mitigate light pollution:

  1. Useful – all light should have a clear purpose.
  2. Targeted – light should be directed only to where needed.
  3. Low Light Levels – light should be no brighter than necessary.
  4. Controlled – light should be used only when it is useful.
  5. Color – use warmer color lights when possible.

Help combat light pollution by inspecting the lighting around your own home or business, talking to your friends, family, and neighbors, writing a letter or calling your city council members, and becoming a dark sky advocate by joining the Alamosa Dark Sky Task Force. To learn more about how you can reduce light pollution and protect our dark skies, or to join the task force, please contact Dani Robben at danirobben@slvgo.com.

PHOTO: Congratulations to SLV GO! Dark Sky Photo Contest first-place winner Autumn Grinath, who beautifully captured the starry, night skies of the San Luis Valley near Crestone.

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