Friday, February 6, 2015

Dark Sky Conservation Begins at Home

2015 began with news that is music to our ears:  Virginia's own Staunton River State Park is poised to submit an application to IDA for certified Dark Sky status.  The park's manager, Adam Layman, and the Chapel Hill Astronomical Observational Society have led this effort and worked toward certification over the past year.  The park has a Bortle's scale reading of between 3 and 4 and is shooting for a Silver rating.

Read more: State park seeks dark sky certification.

Virginia IDA applauds and supports Staunton River Stat Park's aspirations.  The IDA Dark Sky Places program protects and conserves night skies as the natural resource that they are.  Dark Sky Parks give visitors back their view of the stars while educating them about how light pollution has unnecessarily stolen our night sky heritage for many decades.  To paraphrase a quote from IDA's own Scott Kardel, "if someone has never seen and experienced a forest, why would they care about protecting a forest?"  

Want to see Staunton River State Park's skies for yourself?  Join the Star Party March 19 - 22nd!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

2014 Wrap Up

A Solstice message from Laura Greenleaf, co-leader of the Virginia chapter of IDA sent to the mailing list. Like to get these occasional updates? Just send a request to

As the year comes to its close I want to let you know what the Virginia chapter of the International Dark Sky Association has been up to this year--or at least share some highlights of our volunteer work. We have been busy . . .
1) Reversing glare and light trespass on private property in Henrico County  We intervened successfully on behalf of residents whose home (outside and in) was lit up like a football field from a poorly designed and implemented LED installation at the new fire station next door. After months of effort including testimony to the Board of Supervisors and consultation from then IDA Executive Director Bob Parks, Henrico County officials reduced excessive illumination levels and switched fixtures to a "warmer" Color Correlated Temperature (five lamps were changed from 90 bulb 5,000Kelvin arrays to 30 bulb 3,000Kelvin arrays). This project has been a case study in the pitfalls of LED lighting when it is used carelessly and we learned so much in the process of analyzing the installation (with piles of county FOIA documents obtained by the home owner) and researching best practices.   We're so pleased to have made a tangibly positive difference with our advocacy (the "before" and "after" photos speak loudly). And IDA has two grateful new members.

2) Contributing to updated outdoor lighting guidelines in Richmond  Members of Richmond's Urban Design Committee sought our expertise as they began revising guidelines for outdoor lighting.  Our input has already made a difference in new applications.  The new guidelines will be finalized early next year.

3) Promoting best practices for LED lighting in Powhatan County The lessons learned in Henrico will benefit other communities.  Powhatan is already home to one of the strongest ordinances in the state, if not the best, but groundless corporate claims had prevailed when it came to limiting Color Correlated Temperature (CCT).  That's likely to  change soon now that IDA has issued their new Fixture Seal of Approval standards that include limiting harmful blue-white light emissions with a CCT maximum of 3,000Kelvin.

4) Supporting advocates from across Virginia  Throughout the year we were in touch with residents promoting wise use of outdoor lighting and/or fighting intrusive glare and light trespass at home from Louisa County to Loudoun County. We help in whatever way we can including guidance, our electronic library of resources, copies of books, etc.

5) Providing outreach and education In March I was the featured presenter and a panel member for an event focused on lighting and public safety that was part of Starry Nights Harrisonburg organized by The End of Night author and JMU professor Paul Bogard and JMU planetarium director Shanil Virani. 

2015 will begin with two more presentations--in Staunton and Williamsburg.  As a Virginia Master Naturalist, I am also assisting with development of a cultural/natural history education program that will focus on the experience of the night time environment in centuries past.

While Virginia IDA is not a stand-alone nonprofit and we do not accept donations, we are part of IDA and I encourage you to consider membershipIt's been a great year for IDA:  six more parks received eco-friendly lighting,13 more dark sky places were certified, Florida's sea turtles will soon benefit from increased protection, and public awareness continues to grow.  Please consider helping us strive toward the achievable goal of bringing back our view of the thousands of stars we erase with our wasted light (like at Mont-Megantic where light pollution levels are now back to what they were in the 1970s!).

with best wishes to you at this special time of year~


Laura Greenleaf
co-leader, Virginia chapter of the International Dark-Sky Association

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Texas Trailblazes with Dark Sky Parks

Two Texas State Parks are the newest IDA certified Dark Sky Places (the town of Sedona, AZ made the list just last week thanks to the dedicated efforts of Keep Sedona Beautiful).  Improving on the parks' lighting to reduce glare and uplight (while saving energy and money) enhances the quality of star gazing and expands tourism for night sky programming and activities.  Even if you're not an amateur astronomer, who wants to travel to a state park to escape the suburbs or city only to have  bare floodlights or a dusk to dawn glarebomb despoiling your campsite or cabin?  Unfortunately this has been my experience in every overnight visit to a Virginia state park.  We have glorious parks with well-earned excellent reputations--so many options within reasonable reach of most parts of the state provide for recreation and respite. But too often the respite does not extend to intrusive artificial light at night.  Take it from Texas---curbing light pollution and valuing the natural resource of the night and its sky are good for business.
Learn more about IDA's Dark Places and the Texas State Parks Dark Sky Program.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Soccer fields lighting the latest threat to what remains of rural Loudoun County

John Flannery writes eloquently of what will be lost if Loudoun County installs sixteen 70 and 80 foot tall lighting towers on already elevated fields in a public park in his column "In the dark over lights" in a May edition of the Loudoun Times Mirror.
The star-flocked night sky I grew up under is not what it was because of light pollution from Loudoun County to the east and Winchester to the west.
Flannery rightly links the degradation of the night sky and nocturnal environment as a violation of one's home and property.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy defends Franklin Park

The Loudoun Wildlife Conservancy has written a letter to the county's Board of Supervisors opposing a proposal that would install 16 athletic field lights on a site with a 620 foot elevation in a public park.  You can read the letter here.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Starry Nights Harrisonburg!

The last week of March (leading up to Earth Hour) The End of Night author and JMU professor Paul Bogard and JMU planetarium director Shanil Virani inaugurated Starry Nights Harrisonburg, a series of events to raise awareness of light pollution's wide ranging impacts and spur action to reverse the trend on campus, in Harrisonburg, and throughout the Shenandoah Valley.  IDA executive director Bob Parks was Wednesday's featured guest speaker and the following evening Virginia IDA chapter co-leader (and JMU alum) Laura Greenleaf delivered a presentation prior to a panel discussion on lighting and campus safety that included Wake Forest Police Chief Regina Larson and several JMU student advocates.  Chief Larson confirmed what research and experience continue to tell us:  lighting is not a stand alone crime deterrent, lighting can backfire and aid criminal activity, and overly bright, glaring, and poorly designed lighting is the enemy of good visibility.  You can read coverage of the event in JMU's The Breeze here.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Light pollution's ongoing toll on migratory birds

This past Sunday the Washington Post magazine's cover story asked the question "Can the carnage caused by city skylines be stopped?"  We know that it most certainly can if we respond with political will and grassroots support for policies and practices that reverse our indiscriminate use of excessive, unnecessary, and poorly designed lighting.  Light pollution affects wildlife both as direct sources in their immediate environment and as skyglow that erases the celestial compass.  Volunteers with city "Lights Out" campaigns spend their early morning hours collecting the avian victims of our addiction to artificial light at night, providing crucial scientific documentation and data.   Read the Post magazine story here and learn more about the Fatal Light Awareness Project here.