On July 7, the San Miguel County Board of Commissioners met and approved a revision of the exterior lighting regulations for the county — from one sentence in the “scenic design” section to a separate section of several pages. It now outlines in some detail how future development and permits for extensive remodels can reduce light pollution and preserve the heritage of local starry skies. Additionally, other sections confirm the county’s support of this preservation.
The new lighting section was also approved by the International Dark Sky Association as meeting the requirements for a lighting management plan for a Dark Sky Reserve.
“This was the plan all along,” said Bob Grossman, who with Deb Stueber of Nucla, working with John Huebner, senior planner for the county and Kay Simenson, planning commission director, worked out the wording for the section. “I’ve been laying the groundwork for this for years. I’m very happy as this is a huge step forward in the direction of reducing light pollution. Excessive light pollution is only about 30 years old. It can be reversed, especially in rural America.”
The regulations focus on the five Principles of smart lighting: 1. Reduce light intensity (lumens) to safe, useable levels. High-intensity tends to glare, reducing the ability to see “into” darkness. 2. Reduce the color temperature of the light to 2700K, the warm area of current lighting description. 3. Shade the light so that it goes downward to cover only the area needing light. 4. Turn it off if you are not using it. The use of timers and motion control can help with that. 5. Don’t light unnecessarily; that is a waste of energy.
There is only one other Dark Sky Reserve in the USA — in Idaho. There are about 25 worldwide. There are other requirements for a reserve but, according to Grossman, “This was our highest hurdle. We could not have done it without the cooperation of the county. It was a pleasure to work with them.”
Grossman, Stueber, and Creighton Wood have formed the Western Slope Dark Sky Reserve Coalition, a 501c3 organization that will support the San Miguel County Reserve effort, as well as other counties that may want to join in the preservation of a Dark Sky heritage.
Stueber is enthusiastic.
“We hope to make the entire Western Slope a Dark Sky Reserve. That is our goal. In fact, we’d like Colorado to become a Dark Sky state,” she said.
Soon the coalition will be working with federal and state agencies to ensure they also approve of the San Miguel County regulations.
“This was so well done by Mr. Huebner and the planning commission staff that it could be a template for other counties to use for land use code revisions they may wish to approve,” Grossman said.
“We need help,” Wood said. “There is still a lot of work to be done to obtain that reserve designation from IDA. Right now, it is just the three of us, we could use more.”
Anyone interested in joining the group should contact the coalition at NorwoodDarkSky@gmail.com or via Messenger from Norwood Dark Sky Advocates Group on Facebook.