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How To Become An International Dark Sky Place

How To Become An International Dark Sky Place Image

Observing the Milky Way at Namib Nature Reserve. Photo by Matthew Hodgson (www.alpha-lyrae.co.uk).

International Dark Sky Place designations almost always begin with a small group of individuals who organize to seek formal protection of their nightscape. By arranging for good outdoor lighting policies, rehabilitating poor-quality outdoor lighting installations, and reaching out to educate neighbors and visitors on the importance of dark skies, International Dark Sky Places (IDSP) set a positive example for their communities and countries.

How The Certification Process Works

Download graphic of the International Dark Sky Places Application Process

The International Dark Sky Places certification process is modeled on other conservation and environmental designation programs, such as the UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Biosphere Reserves. Certifications are made on the basis of a written application (see below).
The International Dark-Sky Association does not select International Dark Sky Places, but rather a site is nominated by a group or individual with a comprehensive application. There are five categories for designation within the IDSP Program: International Dark Sky Parks, Communities, Reserves, Sanctuaries, and Urban Night Sky Places. Each category has its own set of guidelines based on land management, size, and sky quality. See Eligibility and Guidelines below.

After reviewing the guidelines, applicants can start the designation process by submitting an inquiry (below) for their site. From there, IDA staff will provide an initial assessment of the site’s eligibility and next steps for the applicant. If deemed eligible based on Program criteria, the applying place will be given a link to pay a non-refundable pre-application fee of USD 250. Once the payment is received and the applicant indicates their initially-proposed timeline for completing their project, the place will be considered active within the IDSP Program designation pipeline and is thereby eligible for advising and ultimate review. IDA staff will continue to work closely alongside the applicant as they gather all the necessary evidence in support of the designation as outlined in the guidelines.

Once the application is complete, the applicant must notify the IDSP Program Manager via email at least 45 days in advance of their intention to submit a finished draft of their application for review. Following, after the application has been reviewed and deemed to meet all of the relevant Program requirements by the IDSP Program Manager, it is submitted to the IDA Dark Sky Places Committee. The Committee judges the quality of the application and makes a recommendation to the IDA Board of Directors for final approval.

An application that receives the Dark Sky Places Committee’s endorsement is forwarded to the IDA Board of Directors, which has 10 calendar days to vote to accept the proposal or send it back to the applicants with requests for specific changes or improvements. Once the Board approves an application, the International Dark Sky Place is considered officially “certified.” IDA will then cooperate with the new International Dark Sky Place to arrange an announcement date and issue an accompanying press release. Certified places must notify the IDSP Program 10 days in advance regarding their intention to announce their certification.

The entire process takes, on average, 1-3 years from initial inquiry to formal designation.

There is no “template” for the applications, but examples of successful applications to use as models are available on the Communities, Parks, Reserves, Sanctuaries, and Urban Night Sky Places pages.

Eligibility

The eligibility of sites for participation in the International Dark Sky Places program depends on the category of the designation sought.

  • Communities: Must have some type of legal organization that is officially recognized by outside groups. This can be in the form of a town, city, municipality or other legally organized community (such as an urban neighborhood or subdivisions). There is no night sky quality criterion associated with this category.
  • Parks: Must be public or private land, accessible to the public in part or whole, that is legally protected for scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment purposes. The core area must provide an exceptional dark sky resource, relative to the communities and cities that surround it, where the night sky brightness is routinely equal to or darker than 21.2 magnitudes per square arc second.
  • Reserves:  Must be  public or private land of at least 700 km², accessible to the public in part or whole, that is legally protected for scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment purposes. The core area must provide an exceptional dark sky resource, relative to the communities and cities that surround it, where the night sky brightness is routinely equal to or darker than 20 magnitudes per square arc second.
  • Sanctuaries: Must be public or private land, accessible to the public in part or whole, that is legally protected for scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment purposes. The site must provide an exceptional dark sky resource where the night sky brightness is routinely equal to or darker than 21.5 magnitudes per square arc second.
  • Urban Night Sky Places: Must be a municipal park, open space, observing site, or other similar property, accessible to the public in part or whole, located within the region enclosed by a perimeter extending 50 km beyond the edge of the continuously-built area of a municipality with a permanent population of 10,000 or more people within its territorial jurisdiction, or 50,000 or more people if defined as a “metro area” of two or more adjoining municipalities. There is no night sky quality criterion associated with this category.

IDSP Program Guidelines

These PDF documents are the complete set of rules and requirements for each of the five IDSP designation categories.

Guidelines:

 

Checklists:

International Dark Sky Community Checklist
International Dark Sky Reserve Checklist
International Dark Sky Park Checklist
International Dark Sky Sanctuary Checklist
Urban Night Sky Places Checklist

Deadlines

Applications are accepted at a series of deadlines that occur quarterly throughout the calendar year. The deadlines for 2021 are:

22 February 2021 31 May 2021
30 August 2021 29 November 2021

The IDSP Committee will review an application received by any particular deadline at the following deadline; for example, an application received by the February deadline would be reviewed by the Committee in late April, with a final decision expected around the end of the first week of May.

Start The Process!

Are you curious about applying or just want more information? Start by completing our web form.