The following is a guest post by Aaron Watson, Board Chair and Chapter Director of IDA Colorado.
June 2022 marks the combined success of several dark sky projects in Colorado, including the passage of three dark sky related bills, the release of a tourism office promotion campaign, a June is Dark Sky Month Governor’s Proclamation, along with a slate of stunning news articles focused on Colorado’s phenomenal dark skies. Here are five reasons why June is a big month for dark skies in Colorado.
1. June is Colorado Dark Sky Month Governor’s Proclamation:
It’s official! For the third year out of 4 (we skipped 2020), Governor Polis has proclaimed June to be Dark Sky Month in Colorado! This effort has been building over the past few years, and we at the IDA Colorado chapter feel this is our strongest proclamation yet. We included key elements like dark sky tourism, dark sky resource, and circular economy, which mirrors our current work. Special thanks to Colorado chapter’s Richard Obrien and IDA lynchpin Bettymaya Foott for initiating the first proclamation back in 2019. And of course, thank you to IDA Colorado chapter’s public policy champion Martie Semmer for her dedication to our Proclamation’s success in 2021 and 2022.
2. Not Just Tourism! Responsible and Sustainable Tourism with Stewardship and Respect for Local Inhabitants as the Primary Focus.
The Colorado Tourism Office and Leave No Trace have teamed up with the IDA Colorado chapter to produce “Unveil the Night” Care For Colorado Monthly Messaging. This messaging is groundbreaking for the Coalition, as many Stewardship Partners and Members are just beginning to realize the need for 24/7 stewardship and protecting both the daytime AND the nighttime environment. Thanks again to Colorado chapter powerhouse Martie Semmer for opening the door for us to become a Stewardship Partner so that we can get our message out to fellow stewardship and outdoor recreation-minded people and organizations.
3. Dark Sky Places Get a Boost!
Colorado House Bill 22-1382 – Support Dark-sky Designation and Promotion in Colorado – provides funding for the IDA Colorado Chapter to increase our ability to assist International Dark Sky Places in their certification efforts. The bill would also allocate funds for places to join dark sky tourism promotion projects. I had the honor of testifying at both the House and Senate Committee hearings for this bill, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear that many of our state lawmakers have strong connections to the starry night sky full of stars. The night sky truly has the power to connect us all.
Special thanks go out to Colorado chapter stars who joined me in testifying – chapter member Deb Stueber of Nucla/Naturita and chapter board member Val Szwarc of Ridgway / Top of the Pines.
Also, big and starry thank yous to Andrew Grossman of OEDIT and Maggie Larson from Rep. McCluskie’s office for their continued support and excellent work working with us on the dark sky bill and helping it gain traction in the General Assembly. And many thanks to Representative McCluskie and Senator Donovan for championing this bill through the general assembly. We also greatly appreciate Representative Marc Catlin for hopping on as a primary sponsor, showing that dark skies are beloved by all and are truly a non-partisan issue. Many additional representatives and senators across all parties joined in as sponsors, and the bill was passed with overwhelming support.
Read more about Colorado’s new Dark Sky Bill here:
5280 Magazine – May 30, 2022.
New Bill Aims to Create More Colorado Stargazing Destinations
Delta County Independent – May 23, 2022
New state program moves Paonia closer to possible Dark Skies designation
4. No More Blinking Red Lights!
Another dark sky bill that passed is SB22-110 – Equip Wind Turbine Aircraft Detection Lighting System – which puts forth legislation concerning a requirement that a wind-powered energy generation facility be equipped with light mitigating technology. Industrial wind turbines have blinking red lights to fulfill Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requirements, and this bill requires the blades to have lights that only turn on when a plane is approaching. A big win for dark skies! We are pleasantly surprised that this bill came to be and passed without any help from the Colorado chapter! Dreaming here, but how great would it be if aircraft would turn out their blinking lights as well.
5. Put a Can on It! Colorado’s Circular Economy Bill Sets The Stage For Light Pollution To Be Officially Recognized As An Environmental Pollutant.
It is exciting that Colorado is taking steps towards developing a circular economy, and there is a lot of potential in this new economy for working with light pollution and other lighting industry waste. The lighting industry with its associated light pollution, is the perfect candidate for a circular economy. Of course, we all know that wasted light is wasted energy, so cleaning up light pollution is an obvious pollution prevention solution. But there is also pollution from discarded light bulbs and fixtures themselves. A circular economy will look at these waste materials and find ways to reintegrate them into the manufacturing process. Think lighting fixtures and bulbs that are recyclable and made from recycled materials, innovative technology like LED’s that can change in color temperature and brightness, and diffusers and adjustable shields so that one bulb or fixture can have many purposes and be reused when one purpose is no longer needed.
When developing a circular economy, we don’t have to start from scratch. There are programs coming out – such as TM-66: Adopting a Circular Economy in the Lighting Industry, RecoLight training workshops, and Illuminating Engineering Society webinars – Circling in on the Circular Economy and Moving to a Circular Economy in Lighting – that are defining the circular economy in the lighting industry and putting it into practice.
I look forward to the innovation a circular economy will bring to dealing with our light pollution and lighting industry waste issues in Colorado. Moving towards a circular economy will put the ingenuity of the human mind and spirit to task to transform our pollution into fuel for healthy and sustainable economic growth.
Bonus: Big News Articles Getting a lot of Reach!
News media outlets in Colorado and internationally are getting word of Colorado’s growing enthusiasm for dark skies. The following articles have done an outstanding job of bringing awareness to Colorado’s phenomenal dark skies:
AFAR Magazine – April 21, 2022
Colorado Could Soon Be Home to the World’s Largest Dark Sky Reserve
5280 Magazine – May 2022 Issue
Your Guide to Stargazing in Colorado