The International Dark-Sky Association just confirmed something many Utahns already know: the state has some of the most stunning views of the night sky in the world.
The organization, which is dedicated to combatting light pollution across the world, recently named Antelope Island an International Dark Sky Park for its “exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment.” This is the ninth designation Utah has received from the organization for its exceptional nighttime views.
Antelope Island was chosen because of its beautiful scenery, unique bison population and fun family activities, according to a press release. Scott Feierabend, executive director of IDA, said this new designation can help to bring attention to Utah's stunning natural environment.
“The recognition of Antelope Island State Park as an IDA International Dark Sky Park is another important achievement in raising the profile of light pollution and dark skies in the greater Salt Lake City area,” Feierabend said in a press release. “Over a million city dwellers have access to naturally dark nighttime conditions on Antelope Island thanks to the efforts of park staff in promoting conservation of the resources through appropriate outdoor lighting.”
The IDA also noted that dark skies provide more benefits to one's quality of life than many might think, helping not just humans have a better life, but also improving the lives of wildlife in the area and increasing scientific research.
“We are thrilled,” said Wendy Wilson, the assistant park manager of Antelope Island. “Dark skies are a valuable resource that is often overlooked, but critical to human health, scientific research, wildlife health and overall safety. We have a lot of support from the community with our efforts to attain this designation — particularly from Syracuse City and Davis County.”
The other International Dark Sky Parks in Utah are Canyonlands National Park, Capitol Reef National Park, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Goblin Valley State Park, Weber County North Fork Park, Dead Horse Point State Park, Hovenweep National Monument and Natural Bridges National Monument.
This ranks Utah among other great night views at Yeongyang Firefly Eco Park in South Korea, Warrumbungle National Park in Australia and Ballycroy National Park and Wild Nephin Wilderness in Ireland.
Other places in the United States that made the list include the Capulin Volcano National Monument in New Mexico, Death Valley National Park in California and Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. There are currently 46 International Dark Sky Parks.
It's no secret that tourists love their Utah national parks. Utah was recently declared the fifth state in the nation for visitor spending at national parks, ranking below California, Alaska, North Carolina and Virginia.
According to the Deseret News, Utah raked in $1.1 billion in 2016 from its national parks, which contributed about $35 billion to the nation's economy last year.
In order for a place to become an International Dark Sky Park, individuals must submit an application for a certain area. Applicants must indicate why they believe the location is worthy of the award and meet certain requirements. The organization requires that each winner is open to the public and legally protected for certain purposes, among other things.
A panel made up of dark sky experts and past winners reviews the applications bimonthly. Denied applicants may resubmit their application once fixing "problem areas" identified by the review board. The benefits of winning include increased protection for the area, as well as increased awareness and tourism.
Learn more about International Dark Sky Parks and browse the others that have made the cut here.