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Central Idaho Area Declared Dark Sky Reserve

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Flickr.com Photographer Zeitfaenger.net
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It’s getting more difficult every day to find places where the night sky shows the splendors of the heavens. Ever expanding civilization and accompanying lights means that many people will never see the stars like our ancestors did.

Now a swath of Idaho has been declared to be a special region where the night sky will be preserved.

Many people who live in today’s modern urban and suburban areas have never had a chance to actually see the stars. Not just the handful of constellations that are visible from those areas, but to actually see the thousands of stars and rich tapestry that is the milky way.

Stanley Idaho Mayor-Elect Steve Botti remembers showing a visitor from California the night sky off his back deck:

“I have seen some people come from California, who have never seen the Milky Way, and when they saw it they said 'what’s that?' I mean that’s how amazing it is,” Botti said.

Surrounding towns have been implementing ordinances that mandate shielding on lighting to prevent it from shining upward into the night sky, and specific color temperature of the lighting to prevent what is called skyglow.

Now because of those efforts, The International Dark Sky Association has declared a 1,400 square mile swath of Idaho that includes Stanley, Ketchum, and Sun Valley, as well as a large section of national forest, as the nation’s first International Dark Sky reserve.

Steve Botti says residents have been supportive of the lighting laws.

“There’s been very little opposition to it. Most everybody has been strongly in favor of it and understands the reason for it. In the towns, light trespass is an issue where one person’s outdoor light is shining in somebody else’s window, so that was part of the genesis of why the cities like Ketchum adopted dark sky ordinances was to get a handle on situations like that,” Botti said.

There may be an economic benefit to the designation.

The International Dark Sky Association's John Barentine says the region will now be a choice place for a new breed of traveler, those who engage in “astrotourism”.

“So were seeing a lot of interest from people in East Asia for example. And it would not surprise me if they end up with a lot of tourists from China, Japan and Korea who come to central Idaho from the attention the designation will bring them,” says Barentine.

Barentine says other areas of the west, specifically Colorado and Nevada, are likely candidates for the Dark Sky Reserve designation.

Steve was part of the Spokane Public Radio family for many years before he came on air in 1999. His wife, Laurie, produced Radio Ethiopia in the late 1980s through the '90s, and Steve used to “lurk in the shadowy world” of Weekend SPR. Steve has done various on air shifts at the station, including nearly 15 years as the local Morning Edition host. Currently, he is the voice of local weather and news during All Things Considerd, writing, editing, producing and/or delivering newscasts and features for both KPBX and KSFC. Aside from SPR, Steve ,who lives in the country, enjoys gardening, chickens, playing and listening to music, astronomy, photography, sports cars and camping.