Central Idaho has received nationwide and global recognition for the Dark Sky Reserve that was created in 2017, and now local jurisdictions and the U.S. Forest Service are teaming up to oversee the reserve.
The Forest Service, Blaine County, and the cities of Stanley, Sun Valley and Ketchum have crafted a new memorandum of understanding related to dark skies.
The Forest Service and the city of Stanley have approved the MOU. The Ketchum City Council and the Sun Valley City Council approved it in meetings in the past week, and the Blaine County commissioners were scheduled to discuss the MOU on Tuesday afternoon.
The Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve was created in December 2017, and covers 906,000 acres in the region. Most of the land is within the boundaries of the Sawtooth National Forest. It also includes parts of Blaine, Elmore, Boise and Custer counties.
The reserve includes the cities of Stanley, Sun Valley and Ketchum, as well as the communities of Lower Stanley and Smiley Creek.
The reserve features views of the Milky Way Galaxy, the Andromeda Galaxy, numerous constellations, planets and other stellar features. Regions boasting these views are declining in number in the U.S. because of light pollution emitted from cities, urban centers and suburbs, among other sources.
The city of Ketchum first passed an ordinance aimed at preserving views of the night sky in 1999, and Hailey followed in 2002. The city of Sun Valley passed an ordinance in 2004, while Blaine County approved its version in 2010.
The MOU will create a jurisdictional oversight group and sets up a framework to manage activities or projects that are related to the Dark Sky Reserve, and to work in partnership with the Idaho Dark Sky Alliance.
The Dark Sky Alliance will operate projects, programs and events that support dark skies in Idaho, while the oversight group is in charge of adopting, amending and enforcing ordinances, rules and regulations that protect the night sky, according to the MOU.
At Monday night’s Ketchum City Council meeting, resident Tom Pomeroy urged the council to adopt the MOU and to continue to work to enforce the city’s ordinance.
“This initiative has put us on the map in a lot of places,” Pomeroy said. “Don’t take your eyes off the prize. When people complain about Christmas lights, we should take it seriously. We’re not heavy-handed.”
The council voted unanimously to approve the MOU.