Glacier National Park received full certification as an International Dark Sky Park this month due to its implementation of lighting fixtures and usage that limit harmful light pollution.
The International Dark Sky Association, which awarded the certification, aims to set guidelines for parks across the world that would limit the impact of outdoor artificial lighting on wildlife and the ability to view night skies.
“Dark night skies are an important wilderness characteristic at Glacier National Park,” said Pete Webster, acting superintendent for the park. “A Dark Skies designation aids International Peace Park visitors in finding their own wilderness solitude.”
Excessive use of artificial light, such as in streetlights, can result in serious consequences in the natural landscape of Glacier National Park in addition to increased energy consumption and limited star viewing ability.
Artificial light disrupts the natural day and night rhythm that governs wildlife behavior resulting in effects on animals such as birds that naturally use the stars to migrate, predators who use the cover of night to hunt, as well as nocturnal wildlife.
In order to curb these effects, IDA has placed specific standards including implementing the use of dark sky-complaint lighting that reduces the amount of glow that fogs night skies and instead points light downward.
“Clearly seeing the expanse of the universe increases a person’s sense of solitude well beyond that of the terrestrial landscape,” Webster added.
Glacier has adopted these alternative lighting options by implementing LED fixtures in specific areas of the park including West Glacier headquarters and park residents. The park has already purchased other fixtures and bulbs for next year that will be utilized in East Glacier, St. Mary, and Many Glacier.
The recognition marks Glacier’s fourth distinction as an International Peace Park, Biosphere Reserve, and World Heritage Site, and the first transboundary IDA International Dark Sky Park.