UTAH (ABC4) – Did you know Utah leads the world in Dark Sky Places?

Utah State Parks have some of the darkest night skies in North America. Though natural dark sky areas are decreasing across the United States and around the world, Utah is going strong.

“Preserving and protecting natural resources is one of the main missions of Utah State Parks. While not often considered, natural dark skies are one of those valuable resources,” says the Utah Division of Natural Resources, DNR.  

Devan Chavez, Public Affairs Manager & Lead PIO Utah Division of Parks and Recreation tells ABC4 that Utah is home to some of the most beautiful scenic locations in the world. Travelers come from far and wide to view Utah’s beauty.

“One of the best ways to experience this natural beauty is to see these areas with their natural dark and stary sky,” Chavez shares. “These areas resonate with us because we want to continue to share this beauty with the public for many years. Many of our parents and grandparents experienced beautiful dark and star-studded skies that aren’t as easy to find these days. Utah’s state parks is helping preserve that with our state parks, as well as our educational programs, much like we do with other heritage resources.”

According to the International Dark-Sky Association, the International Dark Sky Places (IDSP) Program was founded in 2001 to encourage communities, parks, and protected areas around the world to preserve and protect dark sites through responsible lighting policies and public education.

Light pollution has an impact on natural darkness that can be easily reduced.

Utah’s DNR lists the following changes you can make to help Utah’s Dark Sky Places stay dark. 

  • Light only where you need it
  • Shield lights and direct them downward
  • Use the minimum amount of light necessary
  • Select warmer white light bulbs

“It goes without saying that if there is too much light polluting an area, that the night sky will not stand out in its natural splendor,” Chavez shares.

“When our parks work to become dark sky designated, they work to mitigate this throughout the park. Rangers and staff do this by using fully shielded light fixtures, lighting only where it is needed, and utilizing motion sensors, solar sensors, and timers. Not only that, but these rangers also work to educate the public about how to take steps to protect the night sky at their own home. 

“Dark sky events are another great way the public can experience these areas. Participating in a full moon hike, night sky snowshoe walk, scorpion safari, or star party all help raise awareness of ways we can enjoy these natural resources.

Utah currently leads the way in dark sky areas. Currently, there are 23 designated dark sky areas here in Utah, eight of which are Utah state parks.

The International Dark-Sky Association says they designate IDSPs following a rigorous application process requiring applicants to demonstrate robust community support for dark sky protection and document designation-specific program requirements, with regular status updates after designation ensure that IDSPs continue their commitment to dark-sky preservation.

Below is a list of Utah’s 24 designated dark sky areas:

Courtesy: DNR
  • North Fork Park 
  • Antelope Island State Park 
  • East Canyon State Park 
  • Rockport State Park 
  • Jorandelle State Park 
  • Timpanogos Cave National Monument
  • Steinnaker State Park 
  • Dinosaur National Monument
  • Helper
  • Arches National Park 
  • Dead Horse Point State Park 
  • Canyonlands National Park 
  • Goblin Valley State Park 
  • Capitol Reef National Park  
  • Torrey
  • National Bridges National Monument
  • Hovenweep National Monument
  • Cedar Break National Monument
  • Bryce Canyon National Park 
  • Kodachrome Basin State Park 
  • Rainbow Bridge National Monument
  • Fremont Indian State Park
  • Goosenecks State Park
  • Zion National Park

One of the bills in Utah’s 2021 General Legislative Session is House Bill 198, License Plate Amendments, sponsored by Stephen G. Handy, which proposes a new standard-issue license plate called the Utah Dark Sky license plate.

The proposed Dark Skies License Plate would be a fourth standard plate.

“The full license plate image is needed to display the exciting image. Once this gains traction and becomes available, I could see hundreds and thousands of Utah-licensed vehicles at Disneyland, for example. The Darkest Skies in America slogan would be a huge draw for added tourism to our national and state parks,” Rep. Handy says. “Utah truly has the Darkest Skies in America!” 

Rep. Handy says the bill passed out of committee and is now awaiting debate on the House Floor.