SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – For the third straight year, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox announced April as Dark Sky Month, celebrating areas of the state where a starry sky and the Milky Way are clearly visible at night.
The declaration doubles as a promotion for astrotourism and star-gazing in the state of Utah, which the Utah Office of Tourism says has a great impact on the state’s economy.
Utah is reportedly home to some of the darkest skies on earth and leads the world in dark sky preservation. According to Gov. Cox’s declaration, Utah has 24 places that are accredited by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) — an organization that aims to protect the night sky from light pollution. This includes Utah’s five national parks, 10 state parks, and two towns. It also includes the Natural Bridges National Monument, which the Office of Tourism said is the first-ever designated park in the world.
Utah’s beautiful scenic landscape can provide stunning vistas for tourists who are looking to take in the night sky, star-gaze through telescopes, or shoot some night photography. Gov. Cox said in his declaration that “astrotourists” tend to stay longer, spend more, and mitigate harmful tourism impacts on the local community.
The Office of Tourism doubled on Cox’s declaration, saying astrotourism could lead to an estimated $5.8 billion in spending and can support over 113,000 new jobs over the next decade, all of which fall as part of the Red Emerald Strategic Plan.
“The Red Emerald Strategic Plan aims to spread out visitation throughout the state and the year, not just high season and highly visited places. Preserving dark skies helps communities establish long lasting tourism economies and keeps our places ‘Forever Mighty,’ said Managing Director of the Utah Office of Tourism Vicki Varela. “Utah State Parks, our national parks and community partners have shown tremendous leadership and vision in preserving the night sky throughout the state.”
In addition to the economic impacts, dark sky tourism also has an impact on Utah’s wildlife and human well-being. According to the IDA, outdoor light pollution disrupts nocturnal animals, can throw off migrating birds, and throw a delicate ecosystem out of balance.
On the human side, the IDA says artificial lighting affects our “biological clock,” or circadian rhythm and melatonin, affecting sleep quality.
There are many different ways to enjoy Utah, whether it’s skiing, hiking, or rock climbing to name a few. Through April, the spotlight is now on Utah’s dark skies.