Recently, there’s been some discussion about outdoor lighting and our status as a Dark Sky Community. Although we are not officially listed as a dark sky community at darksky.org we have many of the dark sky recommendations in our ROTR PPRs (Policies, Procedures and Rules) thanks to the foresight of past board members. There are many benefits to the community when we adhere to the rules and guidelines.
At Darksky.org I found the following explanation for why a dark sky is a needed:
“For billions of years, all life has relied on Earth’s predictable rhythm of day and night. It’s encoded in the DNA of all plants and animals. Humans have radically disrupted this cycle by lighting up the night. Plants and animals depend on Earth’s daily cycle of light and dark rhythm to govern life-sustaining behaviors such as reproduction, nourishment, sleep and protection from predators. Scientific evidence suggests that artificial light at night has negative and deadly effects on many creatures including amphibians, birds, mammals, insects and plants.”
Moving to the Rockies from the beaches of NW Florida I can understand the significance of a need for dark skies. The sea turtle population was harmed by brightly lit homes on the beach when the young hatchlings would travel toward the light of the homes rather than the moon shining on the Gulf of Mexico. A concentrated effort by the beach and island communities to honor dark sky recommendations during the hatching season significantly increased the number of sea turtle hatchlings safely making their way to the water.
Here in the Rockies our lights affect the wildlife in the same way. Migrating birds, nocturnal critters, and even stargazing humans who inhabit the ranch are impacted by too many bright lights directed skyward. Even our sleep patterns can be interrupted by a neighbor’s ultra bright lights.
The cure is to learn a few simple strategies as outlined in the Outdoor Lighting regulations included on page 17 of our Policies, Procedures and Rules. I’ve listed the purpose of the regulation and a few ideas taken from the regulation but I recommend taking an in depth look at the PPR for all of the information. The PPR can be found in the Members Only section at rotr.org.
The purpose of the Outdoor Lighting regulation is to:
- Permit reasonable uses of outdoor lighting for nighttime safety, utility, security, and enjoyment while preserving the ambiance of the night;
- Curtail and reverse any degradation of the nighttime visual environment and the night sky;
- Minimize glare and obtrusive light by limiting outdoor lighting that is misdirected, excessive, or unnecessary;
- Conserve energy and resources to the greatest extent possible;
- Help protect the natural environment from the damaging effects of night lighting.
- The idea that more light always results in better safety and security is a myth. One needs only the right amount of light, the right place, at the right time. More light often means wasted light and energy.
- Use the lowest wattage of lamp that is feasible. The maximum wattage for most residential applications should be 100 but less is usually sufficient. For cost saving purposes, consider compact fluorescent lamps rather than incandescent, as they use much less energy and have a much longer lifetime.
- Whenever possible, turn off the lights or use motion sensor controlled lighting.
A simple test is to walk through your property at night when your lights are on and adjust your lighting so it’s only pointed downward. Look to see if the lights are shining on your neighbor’s property. A vacant lot next door doesn’t mean it’s OK to shine your lights there because when neighbors come to camp it may be annoying and it affects the wildlife on their property. Be conscientious. To be good neighbors, our part time residents and campers should ensure their temporary lighting follows the PPRs.
Working together, we can protect the wildlife around us, conserve energy, and enjoy the benefits of living in a dark sky community.