Dark Night Skies are a part of the community character in Jackson (Comprehensive Plan Policy 1.3.d). Those of us who live in Jackson Hole are incredibly fortunate to be in a place where we can still see a spectacular number of stars from just a few miles outside of the Town of Jackson. As of 2016, only 20% of people in the US could see the arms of the Milky Way Galaxy from where they lived (Faichi et al. 2016). In downtown Jackson, that view is very close to being lost.

Animals suffer just as much as humans do with excess or unnecessary lighting at night. Moths and other insects are attracted to brighter lights. The light causes them to leave their natural area, which leads birds and bats to expend more energy hunting those insects farther from their homes. Light pollution also negatively affects the migration of birds, resulting in an estimated 1,000,000,000+ bird deaths every year. Larger prey species are also left at a disadvantage because more light means fewer places to hide. That excess light allows predators to create dangerous instabilities in ecosystems.

Several scientific studies have shown that lighting at night disrupts sleep patterns and hormone production. Some of those hormones have been proven to help mitigate cancerous growths. With properly shielded lighting–ideally using a warm color (reddish instead of blueish)–sleep is drastically improved and hormones such as melatonin are produced naturally, allowing for improved health.

The belief that more lighting leads to more safety is nothing more than a myth. “There is no clear scientific evidence that increased outdoor lighting deters crimes. It may make us feel safer, but has not been shown to make us safer” (IDA). Unshielded lighting causes our eyes to adjust to the brightness of the light itself, thereby hiding objects or people hidden behind the light in the shadows. Shielded lighting increases visibility by reducing glare, which makes it easier to pick out would-be criminals as well as people and animals crossing the road.

“[The International Dark Sky Association] estimates that at least 30 percent of all outdoor lighting in the U.S. alone is wasted, mostly by lights that aren’t shielded. That adds up to $3.3 billion and the release of 21 million tons of carbon dioxide per year!

What the International Dark Sky Association has worked decades to accomplish totals to more than just a better view of the stars. With virtually minimal-to-no drawbacks, the certification saves energy, improves safety, preserves human and wildlife health, and creates a healthier and happier community, creating a vibrant appeal that keeps both locals and visitors looking upward toward the stars. In addition, the easier access to the cosmos encourages scientific literacy by engaging both young and old minds through astronomical awareness.

Dark Sky Certification also makes Jackson Hole, Wyoming recognized as a leader in conservation and respected regions making an effort to conserve one of the last great remaining natural treasures.