The city of Moab is one step closer to achieving the “International Dark Sky Community” certification since a new outdoor lighting ordinance passed unanimously at the Aug. 13 Moab City Council meeting.
The Dark Sky designation is given to communities that show “exceptional dedication to the preservation of the night sky through the implementation and enforcement of a quality outdoor lighting ordinance, dark sky education and citizen support of dark skies,” according to the International Dark-Sky Association.
“What scientists are finding across the world is that artificial light at night is another ecological stressor for species already facing habitat loss, narrow migratory routes and climate change,” said Crystal White, Moab’s Sustainability Office intern.
Research has shown that not only animals but human health is affected by artificial nighttime lighting – especially for those exposed on a regular basis, White said.
But how do Moab’s residents and businesses prepare to meet the new lighting requirements?
Dark Skies Ordinances an International Trend
The new lighting standards are set by the International Dark-Sky Association, an organization dedicated to combating light pollution worldwide. City officials hope that Moab will receive official certification by 2020.
“Updating outdoor lighting and sign codes is part of that standard, in addition to other efforts to educate citizens and staff about the benefits and tools of better lighting.” Moab City Councilman Kalen Jones said.
“It helps to have a municipal code to help steer people in the right direction,” Jones said.
Both the city and county consulted with Rocky Mountain Power and other communities that have adopted such lighting ordinances. Torrey, Utah; Flagstaff, Arizona; Ketcham, Idaho; and Norwood, Colorado are a few of the certified Dark Sky communities. Other locations include Moffat, Scotland; Bon Accord, Canada; and Fulda, Germany.
“Good lighting doesn’t mean no lighting,” Jones said.
“Good lighting means it’s directed and shines where it is needed and at an intensity that is appropriate and when it is needed,” he said.
Jones says that work promoting a greater understanding of the cultural and economic resources from protected night skies has been led by an informal committee including Grand County Community and Economic Development Director Zacharia Levine, Friends of Arches and Canyonlands National Parks Executive Director Joette Langianese, the Moab Area Travel Council, and others.
Local Parks Join Dark Sky Initiative
Designated Dark Sky Communities are not only towns and cities, but also parks, sanctuaries, reserves and urban places.
Canyonlands National Park is an International Dark Sky Park, and Arches National Park is planning a formal ceremony in September to celebrate its recent dark sky designation.
White was instrumental in helping Dead Horse Point State Park receive its International Dark Sky Park certification when she was the assistant park manager there. Now she’s helping Moab change its lighting practices.
In 2014, Dead Horse Point State Park developed a lighting management plan, which included retrofitting all of its lighting. White even worked with an oil and gas developer on the park’s border to change its lighting practices to help preserve the park’s dark sky.
“They agreed to change how they were using their existing lighting,” White said. “It was a lot darker after that. It was so appreciated.”
Other Utah state parks with a Dark Sky Park designation include Goblin Valley, Antelope Island and Steinaker State Park.
How Residents And Businesses Can Prepare
Both Moab’s homeowners and commercial property owners have five years to comply with the new lighting regulations.
“The lighting changes are really simple,” White said, “and it makes sense to buy the right materials now to avoid having to replace their lighting within the next five years.”
Businesses are now required to turn off outdoor lighting by 10 p.m., or an hour after closing. Hotels who are open 24/7 will have different requirements, Moab Sustainability Director Rosemarie Russo said.
The new lighting ordinance requires that light fixtures have shields to direct the light downward. This prevents light from escaping outside property boundaries where the light fixtures are located.
For local residents, “you can DIY this – you can easily make a (light bulb) shield out of metal or plastic scraps,” White said.
Walkers Tru-Value hardware store is carrying fixtures that will direct light downward if you don’t want to make one yourself, she said.
Moab’s Sustainability Office is also available to help people find the best approach for retrofitting their property to comply with the new regulations.