Lights Off! Parks Canada’s Dark Sky Preserves
Parks Canada gives visitors the opportunity to enjoy the wonders of the night sky by taking part in the Dark Skies Initiative.
Parks staff Roxanne Lafontaine observing the moon through one of Jasper National Park's telescopes. © Parks Canada
Light pollution is an often overlooked aspect of environmental footprints; while the impact of artificial light may seem minor, issues such as energy waste, air and water pollution, and harm to nocturnal wildlife are things to consider.
One way of combating light pollution is through the establishment of Dark Sky Preserves. Designated by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, these preserves are established to reduce artificial light glare, increase the visibility of the night sky, and reduce energy consumption to benefit all life on Earth, while protecting nocturnal habitats and encouraging public enjoyment of the night sky.
Local youth take in the night skies at Annette lake, Jasper National Park. © Parks Canada
Parks Canada currently manages a number of Dark Sky Preserves, and at each site strict guidelines are applied to help protect and preserve the night sky for the use of nocturnal wildlife in its natural habitat and for visitors who come to enjoy programming on astronomy and other dark sky themes.
Jasper National Park was named the world’s largest dark sky preserve in 2011- at 11,228 square kilometres, it is larger than the combined total of dark sky preserves around the world. Parks Canada’s other dark sky preserves are located at Fort Walsh National Historic Site, Elk Island National Park, Point Pelee National Park, Kouchibouguac National Park, Grasslands National Park, Bruce Peninsula National Park, and Kejimkujik National Park.
Parks Canada’s commitment to darker skies allows exciting opportunities for visitors to enjoy and engage with the beauty of the natural night sky, while at the same time protecting unique ecosystems and promoting energy savings.
Observing the truly dark skies at one of Jasper's backcountry campgrounds © Parks Canada