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Visit Sun Valley, ID on a cloudless night any time of the year, and your reward will be a sparkling celestial show like none other. Photo ops abound, children are awestruck, and even if it’s your first time seeing the Milky Way -or your 100th, it is a natural marvel every single time.

While light pollution has become the product of our urban lifestyles, the ability to see the stars that surround our planet in more populated cities is actually becoming extinct. 

Enter the IDA International Dark Sky Reserve. A group of people who aim to provide leadership, tools, and resources for individuals, policymakers, and industry, in the hopes of reducing light pollution and promoting responsible, beautiful, healthy, and functional outdoor lighting. They also claim to bring light pollution issues to diverse communities worldwide to create access to information about the destructive impact of over-lighting and the benefits of responsible lighting.

An IDA International Dark Sky Reserve is a public or private land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage, and/or public enjoyment. Reserves consist of a core area meeting minimum criteria for sky quality and natural darkness, and a peripheral area that supports dark sky preservation in the core. Reserves form through a partnership of multiple land managers who recognize the value of the natural nighttime environment through regulations and long-term planning.

After many years, Ketchum received recognition from the IDA Community in 2017. Just a couple of months later, the towns of Sun Valley, Ketchum, and their surrounding areas received the highly prestigious designation. The area stretches from Ketchum to Stanley, includes four counties, and the entire Sawtooth National Recreation Area. 

  • Our central Idaho location is the only one in the United States out of 18 recognized sites around the globe.
  • The organization requires each site to submit an annual report. These reports are vital to the relationship between IDA and our International Dark Sky Places. It’s an opportunity to check in each year about events, and progress toward improving nighttime conditions, as well as whether there are any problems or ways in which IDA can help. 
  • The total area encompasses 1,416 miles or 906,000 acres. It’s the third-largest in the world.
  • There is a long list of criteria for an area to become a dark sky reserve. High efficient light bulbs, light sources are pointed downward instead of upward and coverings over large lights are needed.
  • International Dark-Sky Communities

Communities are legally organized cities and towns that adopt quality outdoor lighting ordinances and undertake efforts to educate residents about the importance of dark skies.

Parks are publicly- or privately-owned spaces protected for natural conservation that implement good outdoor lighting and provide dark sky programs for visitors.

Reserves consist of a dark “core” zone surrounded by a populated periphery where policy controls are enacted to protect the darkness of the core.

Sanctuaries are the most remote (and often darkest) places in the world whose conservation state is most fragile.

UNSPs are sites near or surrounded by large urban environments whose planning and design actively promote an authentic nighttime experience amid significant artificial light at night. And otherwise do not qualify for designation within any other International Dark Sky Places category.

Learn more at International Dark-Sky Association

Amazing phone apps that help you stargaze like a pro:  Star Chart, Star Walk, and SkyView Lite