Why We’re Advocating for Dark Sky Friendly Lighting in Jackson Hole
Light pollution in Jackson has become a problem for the health and safety of people and wildlife, not to mention the wasted money and energy associated with unnecessary artificial light. Light pollution also impedes our ability to enjoy dark night skies. Many other cities around the globe are capitalizing on promoting their efforts to restore their night skies. We can save our night skies too! Wyoming Stargazing is embarking on a campaign to Save Our Night Skies in Jackson Hole and we need your help. You can sign up below for the Save Our Night Skies e-mail list to receive updates on what’s happening with this campaign and you can participate in our citizen science research project with your smartphone to collect data on light pollution in Jackson Hole. Download instructions for how to participate in the citizen science research project here!
With generous support from the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole, the Teton Conservation District, 1% for the Tetons, the JH Travel and Tourism Board, Free Roaming Photography, the Teton Photography Group, the Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance, and many private donors we’re trying to help the Town of Jackson and Grand Teton National Park achieve Dark Sky Certification from the International Dark Sky Association. Why? Keep reading this page to discover all the answers and more.
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Reasons to Reduce Light Pollution
Dark Night Skies are a part of the community character in Jackson (Comprehensive Plan Policy 1.3.d). Those of us who live in Jackson Hole are incredibly fortunate to be in a place where we can still see a spectacular number of stars from just a few miles outside of the Town of Jackson. As of 2016, only 20% of people in the US could see the arms of the Milky Way Galaxy from where they lived (Faichi et al. 2016). In downtown Jackson, that view is very close to being lost.
Wildlife and Ecosystems
Animals suffer just as much as humans do with excess or unnecessary lighting at night. Moths and other insects are attracted to brighter lights. The light causes them to leave their natural area, which leads birds and bats to expend more energy hunting those insects farther from their homes. Light pollution also negatively affects the migration of birds, resulting in an estimated 1,000,000,000+ bird deaths every year. Larger prey species are also left at a disadvantage because more light means fewer places to hide. That excess light allows predators to create dangerous instabilities in ecosystems.
Several scientific studies have shown that lighting at night disrupts sleep patterns and hormone production. Some of those hormones have been proven to help mitigate cancerous growths. With properly shielded lighting–ideally using a warm color (reddish instead of blueish)–sleep is drastically improved and hormones such as melatonin are produced naturally, allowing for improved health.
The belief that more lighting leads to more safety is nothing more than a myth. “There is no clear scientific evidence that increased outdoor lighting deters crimes. It may make us feel safer, but has not been shown to make us safer” (IDA). Unshielded lighting causes our eyes to adjust to the brightness of the light itself, thereby hiding objects or people hidden behind the light in the shadows. Shielded lighting increases visibility by reducing glare, which makes it easier to pick out would-be criminals as well as people and animals crossing the road.
“[The International Dark Sky Association] estimates that at least 30 percent of all outdoor lighting in the U.S. alone is wasted, mostly by lights that aren’t shielded. That adds up to $3.3 billion and the release of 21 million tons of carbon dioxide per year!“
Save Our Night Skies Goals, 2023
Short Term – 1 Year
- Have appropriate language for dark sky certification included into the Town of Jackson and Teton County Land Development Regulations (LDRs)
Interim – 1-4 Years
- Make dark sky lighting hardware available locally
- Obtain Dark Sky Certification for Jackson, Teton County, and Grand Teton National Park
Want Our Help Chatting with a Neighbor About Unshielded Lights?
The Town of Jackson and Teton County
The Town of Jackson and Teton County accepted 49 or our 51 proposed amendments to the Exterior Lighting Standard and Sign Standard. These new Land Development Regulations can be found by clicking on the links below.
Grand Teton National Park
We completed a comprehensive outdoor lighting inventory of Grand Teton National Park earlier this summer. The full report can be viewed here. The good news is that GTNP is well on its way to becoming Dark Sky compliant.
Our efforts in 2022 to Save Our Night Skies were made possible by generous private donations and a grant from the Community Foundation of Jackson Hole
So What’s the Solution?
We’re not against light at night and we’re not asking everyone to eliminate it or to live without it. We just want people to know how to illuminate outdoor areas in ways the minimize light pollution.
Fortunately, the solution is extremely simple. By shielding a light and pointing it down, you hide the bulb from view, increasing visibility while also minimizing the amount of light that goes up into the sky, which is where it’s completely unnecessary. Also, when light is pointed downward, you don’t need as strong of a bulb since it’s all concentrated in one direction. That reduces energy consumption and saves you money by using a lower wattage bulb!
Action Steps You Can Take Right Now
Consider using a warmer-appearing light instead of white. At the same wattage, a white light can contribute up to eight times the amount light pollution of a warmer, orange-looking light. Warmer-looking lights also have less of an impact on wildlife and even help you sleep better at night. They’ll also help your eyes adjust better to the darkness, allowing for more visibility in the shadows, and also up into the night sky! Imagine being able to see the Andromeda Galaxy from your backyard!
Currently, shielded lighting fixtures are not available locally within Jackson, but don’t worry, we plan on fixing that too. In the meantime though, take a look at the International Dark Sky Association’s Dark Sky Friendly Lighting page to help you get started and you too can easily help us save our night skies.
You can also get more great info about the negative affects of light pollution and about LED lights here. LED lights can save you money and reduce light pollution if they are properly shielded.