Debate team holds mock congress at League of Women Voters Event

By: by Rose Egelhoff

Originally posted on The Times-Independent

The League of Women Voters collaborated with the Grand County High School debate team to host an informational speech and mock congress on Nov. 13. The informational speech informed audience members about the use of light ordinances in protecting dark skies. In the mock congress, students debated a bill permitting nightly rentals in all zones of the city of Moab.

Students Grace Osusky, Aidan Guzman-Newton, Emma Millis, Florencia Hernandez, Phillip Geiser, Annie Koppel, Kai Wainer and Miranda Corbin participated. Grace Osusky introduced the dark skies informational speech with an anecdote about a family visit to Chicago where the city lights reflected against the sky, outshining the stars. Other students continued, explaining what light ordinances are and how they affect humans and the environment.

Millis noted that 83 percent of people live in areas with light pollution.

“It’s no wonder Dark Skies, a nonprofit that advocates for the decreasing of light pollution, has become so popular,” Millis said.

Motion sensors, shielding and warmer colored lights can help, Hernandez said.

“None of this requires the use of staff’s time or overwhelming resources to do … it’s clear to see the benefits of such ordinances,” Hernandez said.

Guzman-Newton spoke to the environmental importance of dark sky ordinances. Artificial light disturbs the natural patterns of nocturnal animals. In addition, 30 percent of outdoor lighting is wasted, he said — equivalent to $3.3 billion each year.

Light pollution negatively affects human sleep as well by interfering with the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, Corbin said.

“Melatonin is something that your body needs to survive and thrive,” Wainer said. “Light pollution is creating a world where we cannot produce as much of this hormone as we need. In our cities, most streetlights have LED bulbs, which give off short wavelength of light. This cannot continue. These bulbs need to be switched to a longer wavelength of light so the damage of light pollution is lessened.”

Geiser explained the wider significance of supporting municipal light ordinances.

“By endorsing a municipal program that aims for a cleaner environment, we start a conversation about the killer of nine million people and to me, that means something,” Geiser said. “So not only by supporting dark skies are we helping the citizens of Moab, but also the world because we are what starts the conversation on the importance of a clean environment.”

After the informative speech, local stakeholders told the audience about local dark skies efforts. Grand County Community Development Director Zacharia Levine spoke about city and county efforts to apply for the International Dark Sky Designation through the International Dark Sky Association. 

“We are also both looking at our ordinances that regulate lighting in our respective jurisdictions,” Levine said.

Levine added that the county does not allow internally illuminated signs, and requires downward directed fully shielded lighting. There is room for improvement in incentives for warm-colored lights, which have less of an environmental impact than cooler colored lighting. 

Guest experts Lars Haarr, a river guide with O.A.R.S. Canyonlands Rafting, and Sharon Russel, who works in visitor information for the Bureau of Land Management, also spoke.

“My goal is to get people out there, get people looking up at the night sky, teaching them a little bit about the mythology and the cosmology here and so I would like a darker sky,” Haarr said. “I think that we as citizens of this beautiful place should do everything we can to promote a healthy viewscape not just during the daytime but during the nighttime as well.”

Russel spoke about the beginnings of the dark sky cooperative in Moab.

Next the students presented a mock congress, debating a bill to allow nightly rentals in all zones within city limits and prohibit restrictions on advertising such rentals.

Osusky, Martinez and Guzman-Newton argued for the bill.

“Most people think that second or third homeowners are the ones who benefit from nightly rentals. However this isn’t the case. Nightly rentals can also be people who are under the poverty line renting out a room in their house to provide an extra financial basis for themselves,” Osusky said.

Martinez said that the rights of many to do as they wish with their property should not be violated because of the actions of a few irresponsible renters.

“In the case of short term rentals, the city should deal with actual nuisances from any residents rather than prohibit that all homeowners make a quick buck,” Martinez said. 

Guzman-Newton said that supporting tourism jobs means, “supporting nightly rentals and that regulation was an example of government overreach.”

Millis, Koppel and Geiser opposed the bill. Millis argued that nightly rentals take away the feeling of community. 

“Moab, Utah may be home to Arches and Canyonlands but it is first and foremost the home of its residents and citizens that have made their homes here ... the availability of housing for long term residents becomes scarce as people want to make more of a profit through these nightly rentals,” Millis said.

Koppel also argued that nightly rentals would increase the price of housing for locals.

“Sixty percent of the rentals are owned by people who do not live in Grand County. With outsiders making all the profit on these rentals, it is impossible for locals to thrive economically,” Koppel said.

Geiser agreed, and added that city commercial and residential zoning exists for a reason, saying, “Zones should be prohibited to certain areas.”

The students voted against the bill in a seven to two vote.

The debate team will host the Red Rock Classic tournament on Friday, Dec. 15 and Saturday, Dec. 16. The team is looking for judges. No experience is needed. Interested parties can email or call the high school at 435-259-8931.

Southern Utah town has starring role in dark-sky movement

Link to full Salt Lake Triune article here.

Torrey • Utah is emerging as a global leader in protecting dark skies from light pollution, attracting visits to the Colorado Plateau that during the next decade are expected to pump $2.5 billion into rural economies.

Residents in several southern Utah communities have mounted a grass-roots push to retrofit old lighting outside homes, business and public thoroughfares to curb stray beams and save money through more efficient, directed lighting.

Torrey, the gateway town to Capitol Reef National Park, is slated to become the state’s first Dark Sky Community, while Springdale, Boulder, Moab, Kanab and the border town of Page, Ariz., are considering or have passed light-curbing ordinances. The Dark Sky Community designation is an award granted so far to only 15 other communities in the United States, Canada, Scotland, Denmark and the Channel Islands.

In addition, the University of Utah has awarded formal recognition to the Consortium for Dark Sky Studies, the first academic center in the world dedicated to discovering, developing and applying knowledge to help protect night skies, according to U. officials. And next year, the university will help sponsor the largest global conference to date, examining the impacts of artificial lights.

Light pollution prompted Torrey resident Mary Bedingfield-Smith to find out what the small town (population 300) could do to curb artificial light. A single street light near her home was so bright that it lit up a row of cottonwood trees, spoiling her view of Capitol Reef’s star-encrusted sky. She chatted with neighbors on walks and met with town officials with a proposal: Her group would raise money to install new lighting, and the municipality would save more than $900 in lighting costs each year.

Bedingfield-Smith, a retired elementary-school teacher and Utah State University educator, was able to form a consensus by assuring residents that no one would be forced to replace existing lighting. And her group would pay new lighting costs for those who wanted to retrofit but couldn’t afford it.

“People are worried about their specific situation, which is difficult to address in a large meeting,” said Bedingfield-Smith, now a Torrey planning-commission member. “When we talk individually, we can discuss specific lighting needs and what can be done to get there. Without individuals and associations working together, the last remaining dark areas on the planet could well disappear without anyone noticing.”

In late March, crews replaced traditional bulbs, which spew out beams in all directions, in the town’s streetlights along Main Street. Workers from Garkane Energy Cooperative installed new lights using spectra that direct light away from the sky.

Torrey residents turned to online crowdfunding to help pay for eight new streetlights. Nearly $13,000 was raised through the website (“in our backyards”), and the Torrey arts organization Entrada helped raise an additional $7,000. The donations paid for the town’s retrofitted bulbs and new lighting at the Torrey Trading Post and Chuck Wagon store and motel, both on Main Street. Streetlights on 100 North have not yet been replaced, allowing residents to see the different effects on the night-sky view.

The longtime goal is to assist other towns in the sparsely populated Wayne County (population 2,700) to protect its dark skies — from the county seat of Loa along the State Highway 24 corridor leading to Capitol Reef.

Utah has more dark-sky places than any other state or country, but light pollution is eroding this valuable, irreplaceable resource, said John Barentine, program manager for the International Dark-Sky Association. Torrey, for example, has been the single greatest source of light pollution above Capitol Reef. Visitors must hike into the deepest southern reaches of the park to enjoy the most pristine night skies.

“In the American West, small towns emit more amounts of light, relative to their populations, than do large metropolitan areas,” he said. “There’s also broader support for private-property rights, and a fundamental human fear of darkness. The tendency in rural areas is to light up property in the name of safety and security.”

Yet people can be safe and save money by using lights appropriately, advocates say. Simple shields on existing bulbs, for example, direct beams downward, rather than lighting up the heavens. And instead of using expensive all-night floodlights, motion detectors can flash an immediate alert to an intruder.

LED lights are phasing out other types of bulbs, but some of the brightest lamps cast a blue color, creating glare problems. It’s suggested that consumers purchase LEDs measured in light output of 3,000 lumens. By comparison, an old standard 100-watt bulb equals about 1,600 lumens. The IDA website lists names of companies that manufacture appropriate lighting. The association also has an IDA Seal of Approval that provides objective, third-party certification for lighting that minimizes glare, reduces light trespass and doesn’t pollute the night sky.

The American Medical Association has raised concerns about exposure to blue-rich white LED lighting, which can damage human retinas, create road hazards and disrupt nocturnal animals. The report “Human and Environmental Effects of Light Emitting Diode Community Lighting” recommends “minimizing and controlling blue-rich environmental lighting by using the lowest emission of blue light possible.”

Dark skies above Colorado Plateau will have a huge economic impact on Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona, according to a Missouri State University study. Tourists from around the world will spend nearly $2.5 billion visiting national parks in the Colorado Plateau, creating more than 52,250 jobs.

Increased visitation will also affect rural areas by providing a steady source of income for local businesses and employees during the off-peak season, according to the study.

“Many in the world have lost their view of the Milky Way,” study authors David Mitchell and Terrel Gallaway write. “For them a dark sky is as exotic a sight as a herd of bison or a glacial lake.”

The economic impact does not include additional tourism dollars generated from visits to Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management lands, including Utah’s Bears Ears or Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments, the latter of which is larger than the state of Delaware. Cedar Breaks National Monument near Cedar City recently celebrated being designated an International Dark Sky Park, the seventh in Utah to win this honor.

The Colorado Plateau is among the nation’s last remaining dark-sky regions. Its low population density, large swatches of public lands, arid climate and high elevation lend themselves to superior night views, said Bettymaya Foott, global coordinator for the U. academic consortium and coordinator for the Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative, which provides educational materials and promotes initiatives.

“There is social shift toward appreciating the importance of dark skies,” she said. “Today, there is a greater understanding that this is something worth protecting.”

To further dark-sky protections, the U. consortium is bringing together more than 25 universities, industries, community and government partners to take part in researching light pollution. The consortium also has partnered with ALAN (Artificial Light at Night) to host a global conference at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort in November 2018.

Stephen Goldsmith, consortium co-director and associate professor of city and metropolitan planning at the U., said in a statement when the consortium was announced in February: “The related trans-disciplinary subjects of research, both abundant and complex, make the consortium a critically important resource for communities in the developed and developing world.”

Astronomy events

P A sampling of events throughout Utah to see the stars in coming weeks:

Wednesdays, 8 to 11 p.m. • Star Party when skies are clear; University of Utah South Physics Observatory, 115 S. 1400 East, Salt Lake City; free

Thursdays and Saturdays, 6:45 p.m. • Viewing dark skies; Clark Planetarium, 110 S. 400 West, Salt Lake City; $2

April through May • Citizen science research to study the impact of Salt Lake City’s light pollution on migratory birds; Tracy Aviary, 589 E. 1300 South; contact Cooper Farr,

Saturday, April 29, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. • Astronomy Day, Clark Planetarium; free

Saturday, May 6, 6:45 p.m. • Gateway to the Stars program, Clark Planetarium; $2

May 14-20 • Amazing Earthfest, Kanab;


By: Colter Dye, Sustainability Ambassador.

March 29, 2017

Link to original article here.

Courtesy of Bettymaya Foott.

Bridging the borders of three great North American ecosystems: the Great Basin, the Colorado Plateau, and the Rocky Mountains, Salt Lake City is a popular destination for wildlife enthusiasts, outdoor adventurers, and those seeking to connect to the natural world. While snow-capped mountain peaks, vast red deserts, and tree-filled canyons are majestic, one of the most awe-inspiring views comes from glimpsing an arm of the Milky Way Galaxy against a deep blue night sky.

Maintaining a view of our dark skies has implications beyond the inspirational connection to the universe, it is also vital to the health and safety of humans and wildlife as well as our respective ecosystems, which often overlap.  The new Consortium for Dark Sky Studies at the University of Utah hopes to preserve access to dark skies.

Formal recognition of the Consortium for Dark Sky Studies (CDSS) was made official last month by the University of Utah, a strategic location for the CDSS as Salt Lake City is central to what Stephen Goldsmith, co-director of the CDSS and associate professor of city and metropolitan planning calls the “Great Starry Way.”

“This portion of the West, basically Montana down to New Mexico, is what I would call the Great Starry Way. These are the darkest places left in the developed world – That’s on the planet, on the Earth!” remarked Goldsmith.

Courtesy of Bettymaya Foott.

Many migratory birds, including thrushes, wrens, orioles, black birds, cuckoos, tanagers, and most species of sparrow, make the majority of their seasonal migrations during the nighttime hours. Species may migrate during the nighttime hours to avoid daytime predators, maximize foraging time during the day, navigate using the moon or constellations, or to prevent their bodies from overheating due to hours of wing flapping. These species now have to navigate new challenges in nighttime migration caused by the constant blaring lights emitted from human settlements.

Flocks of birds may mistake these glowing metropoles for the shining light of the moon or they may be unable to see the constellations they use to navigate because they are muted by the glowing artificial lights. Other birds seem to mistake gleaming glass windows for the surface of water reflecting moonlight. The fate of many of these birds ends with disorientation or confusion leading to missed navigational points, exhaustion, or a quick demise as they collide with buildings. Each year, in North America alone, anywhere between 365 million and 1 billion birds die from collisions with buildings.

Migrating birds are not the only wildlife affected. Many species of frogs wait for cues from the night sky and the moon to cue their breeding rituals of croaking and calling to find a mate. Nocturnal insects are fatally attracted to artificial lights, preventing them from breeding naturally and making them vulnerable to nighttime predators. On the warmer coasts of the world, baby sea turtles search for the twinkling lights of the moon and stars being reflected on the ocean, but are instead drawn toward the glowing lights of roads and cities, leading them to a certain death by car, dehydration, or predation.

Humans are also physiologically ruled by the regular pattern of night and day. Exposure to artificial light at night negatively affects the human circadian rhythm which not only affects sleep cycles but also the production of important hormones which regulate vital biological processes. These changes have been linked to depression, obesity, as well as breast and prostate cancers. While most cities have had ordinances in place for many years to regulate noise pollution, very few have paid any attention to the important consequences of light trespass and pollution.

The work of the CDSS will help to fill this gap. CDSS affiliates come from many departments of the University of Utah, as well as community, government, and industry partners. Tracy Aviary is an advisor for the CDSS.

Beginning in April of 2016, Tracy Aviary began implementing a strategic campaign to decrease light pollution in Salt Lake County, Utah, by holding a series of ‘migration moonwatch’ events to educate the public about the impact of light pollution on migrating birds. In 2017, the Aviary will expand the program to include strategic data collection on birds that strike buildings as a result of light pollution in Salt Lake’s urban core. Building off of strategies from other successful dark skies projects such as FLAP and “lights out,” the Aviary developed the Salt Lake Avian Collision Survey (SLACS), a citizen science project where volunteers will walk early morning survey routes during the migration season to search for and collect data on birds that had collided with lighted buildings overnight. Information collected by SLACS will help target photon reduction strategies and build public support for a “lights out for migration” initiative in Salt Lake.

This kind of period of decreased artificial light benefits human communities as well as birds and other wildlife. It reduces the consumption of fossil fuels that are used to power unnecessary lights, potentially saving billions of dollars and reducing pollutant emissions by many tons. It also allows humans living in urban areas to reconnect with the night sky and enjoy the Milky Way, which some people may not have seen for many years and some children may have never seen in their lives. Many communities are even using these lights out periods to host festivals celebrating the night sky, uniting divided populations, and teaching citizens about the wonders of astronomy.

With its placement on the foothills of the Wasatch Mountain Range, University of Utah’s campus is one of the only college campuses in the United States that provides a direct connection to wild, undeveloped land and the opportunity for encounters with the natural world. Our special connection to and awareness of the natural world makes our campus the ideal place to continue research on the values of reducing light pollution and implementing practices to restore dark skies to our campus and Salt Lake City.

Colter Dye is an undergraduate student pursuing a degree in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation through the Bachelor of University Studies program at the University of Utah. He is a Sustainability Ambassador for the Sustainability Office at the University of Utah. He is also a Conservation Science Intern at Tracy Aviary and an affiliate of the Consortium for Dark Sky Studies at the University of Utah.