One member of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News’ editorial board commented Monday that while she was growing up in Baltimore, she had never actually seen the stars in the night sky.
When she came to the Palouse, she said, it was like being in a planetarium.
Here, away from the lights of the big cities, it is easy to forget how lucky we are to be able to gaze up at the sky and see the countless stars above us. Of course, if you head a few hours south, the view becomes even more amazing. There, the night skies are so pristine that interstellar dust clouds are visible in the Milky Way.
It is one of the dwindling number of areas remaining in the contiguous United States where such views still exist – researchers estimate 80 percent of North Americans live in areas where light pollution blots out the night sky, according to The Associated Press – and a team of local and federal officials and a conservation group, the International Dark-Sky Association, is working to make sure it stays that way.
The parties involved hope to have some 1,400 square miles of land in central Idaho – which is mostly managed by the U.S. Forest Service and contains the wilderness of the Sawtooth National Recreation Area – designated as the first International Dark Sky Reserve in the United States. Only 11 such reserves exist in the world, according to the IDA.
According to the IDA’s website, to qualify as a reserve the area must have “an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment.” Groups must submit an application and be approved by the association.
IDA program manager John Barentine said this remote region of Idaho is one of the last places in the U.S. large enough and dark enough to attain reserve status, and, so far, surrounding cities, area residents, business owners and Forest Service are on board with the designation.
Considering how much most Idahoans cherish the outdoors and the remoteness of Idaho, seeking the designation seems like a no-brainer.