Grasslands National Park

The Darkest Dark Sky Preserve in Canada

Grasslands National Park of Canada, a protected place of national significance, inspires discovery of its unique prairie species and ecosystems, captivating viewscapes and the amazing adaptations of plants, animals and people to its challenging environment. This vast open landscape holds above it some of the darkest skies in Canada. It is only fitting that during the International Year of Astronomy, the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada has declared Grasslands National Park a Dark Sky Preserve (2009).

The proposed boundary of the park is in two blocks (West Block and East Block) that covers more the 921 square kilometers. Currently, more than 571 square kilometers has been acquired by Parks Canada. Over these are the skies, which – with the support of the surrounding communities and landowners – will form Canada's darkest Dark Sky Preserve.

Dark Sky 
Grasslands National Park is pleased to receive the designation of a Dark Sky Preserve.
 © Patrick McManus

Grasslands National Park of Canada worked in partnership with the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada - Saskatoon - Saskatchewan centre for the park’s designation as a Dark Sky Preserve. The Dark Sky preserve designation is awarded by the national office of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Parks Canada and the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada recognize the importance of Grassland National Park’s rich natural and cultural heritage associated with dark skies. As well, Parks Canada recognizes the importance of regional conservation of the dark sky resource and supports the creation of opportunities for Canadians and international visitors to experience the night skies at their best.

Grasslands National Park will follow best practices for its facilities as outlined in Best Practices and Specifications for Outdoor Lighting at Parks Canada, Real Property and Ecological Integrity Branches, Parks Canada, March 2009. The guidelines are tailored to protect ecosystems, reduce energy consumption and maintain dark skies. Preserving the dark sky will also preserve the billion-year old natural day-night cycle for the flora and fauna of the park, preserving healthy natural hunting, foraging and reproductive behaviors.

Black-Footed Ferret 
Nocturnal animals such as the Black-footed ferret are susceptible to light pollution. 
© Paul Knaga

All wildlife from insects to mammals require both daylight and darkness for normal biological functioning. Natural cycles of light and temperature are required for wildlife to navigate, migrate and even to mate. Native prairie plants are well adapted to natural light cycles. They depend on light cues for germination and normal functioning.

Nocturnal animals are especially susceptible to light pollution. The black-footed ferret is North America’s rarest mammal and is a nocturnal species found in Grasslands National Park. Ferrets require true darkness to hunt at night and bats and birds are sensitive to brighter lights, as they require the stars and moon to navigate at night.