A critical party is missing from the group of governments and public agencies that are agreeing to protect central Idaho’s night skies. It’s the state of Idaho.

The state has not acknowledged the value of night skies protection in central Idaho. Without that acknowledgement and a commitment to protection, the state could destroy the views of the Milky Way that have already disappeared for 99 percent of the earth’s population.

The U.S. Forest Service, Blaine County and the cities of Ketchum, Sun Valley and Stanley have hammered out a memorandum of understanding that commits them to collaborate to protect the area’s dark skies from light pollution. Idaho is missing from the agreement.

The MOU is a baby step that simply states the commitment of the parties to protect night skies. It has no teeth and relies on the goodwill and ordinances put in place by the county and the cities. Nonetheless, it’s a good first step.

A second step is for Idaho to sign on. The state owns property within the Sawtooth National Recreation Area and within Blaine County. The state has regularly refused to bring operations on state property into compliance with local ordinances and has rejected local sensibilities.

The state’s gravel pit on Fourth of July Creek Road within the SNRA, constructed in 2006, is a case in point. The state rebuffed Forest Service concerns and operated the pit with blazing commercial lighting 24 hours a day.

Yellowstone National Park’s wildlife attracts visitors from around the world. As central Idaho’s Dark Sky Reserve becomes better known, it will do the same.

Idaho should be a friend, not a foe, of the last remaining views of the Milky Way. Gov. Brad Little should commit state agencies to protecting them.

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