Dark Sky Communities

Dark Sky Reserve

The Towns of Norwood, and Nucla/Naturita were recently designated International Dark-Sky Association Dark Sky Communities, a designation given by the International Dark-Sky Association, to recognize exceptional preservation of the night sky through effective lighting regulations, public outreach and education, and citizen support.

The Norwood Dark Sky Advocates and West End Dark Sky Alliance (Nucla/Naturita) submitted a request to the Planning Commission to amend the current lighting regulations in the county Land Use Code, IDA’s process to designate the San Miguel River Basin a Dark Sky Reserve that proposes to include all of San Miguel County and Montrose County west of the Uncompahgre Plateau. 

Dark Sky regulations achieve more than visibility of the night sky:

  • Light pollution wastes energy. IDA estimates that nearly 35% of light is wasted because it is unshielded or poorly aimed.
  • Light pollution disrupts the ecosystem and wildlife.  Artificial light disrupts plant and animal behaviors, impacting reproduction, nourishment, sleep, and protection.
  • Light pollution impacts human health.  Artificial light at night disrupts circadian rhythms and melatonin, which can impact the immune system. Light pollution is believed to increase the risk of obesity, depression, sleep disorders, and diabetes.
  • Light pollution may reduce public safety. More studies are needed, but some preliminary studies indicate that lights do not prevent crime. Some studies even conclude that glare from excessive lights can impact visibility and create hazards. However, Dark Sky regulations do not prohibit lighting for safety. Rather, the regulations recommend using timer and motion-sensor devices to ensure that light is available when it is needed.

Dark Sky Regulations are based on the following principles:Protecting the night sky graphic

  1. Light only what you need.
  2. Use energy efficient bulbs and only as bright as you need.
  3. Shield lights and direct them down.
  4. Only use light when you need it.
  5. Choose warm white light bulbs.

More information can be found here in the International Dark Sky Reserve Program Guidelines (PDF).

The Board of Commissioners of San Miguel County, Colorado, approves and adopts the amendment to San Miguel County Land Use Code Article 2, Sections 5-307, 5-314, 5-316, 5-319, 5-321, 5-322, 5-7, 5-10, 5-21, 5-26, 5-27 and 5-29 regarding Exterior Lighting. See full resolution here (PDF).

Energy Waste grpahic