Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Support for management actions to protect night sky quality: Insights from visitors to state and national park units in the U.S.

August 31, 2023

Light pollution is a global phenomenon where anthropogenic light sources continue to grow unabated, affecting both social and ecological systems. This is leaving parks and protected areas as some of the last vestiges of naturally dark environments for protecting views of the night sky. Yet, even parks and protected areas have outdoor lighting. Alternative lighting practices are needed to reduce or prevent light pollution from within parks. However, making parks darker may not be desirable for some visitors if they believe it will reduce navigability, safety, or restrict how they recreate (e.g., requiring the use of red-light flashlights after dark and before dawn). How visitors will respond to alternative lighting practices that park managers can implement is still unknown. We used an on-site intercept survey at nine state and national park units in Utah, U.S., to investigate nighttime visitors' support or opposition to management actions to protect night sky quality and their interest in learning about topics related to night skies. Further, this study also segmented visitors into two groups: those ‘dependent’ on the dark sky as a resource and those whose activities did not depend on a dark sky. Defining what a ‘dark sky dependent’ visitor is, which has yet to be done in the literature, is a fundamental step to furthering night sky research and management efforts. Across nine parks and protected areas, 62% of nighttime visitors participated in dark sky dependent activities. Findings indicate broad support for management actions designed to improve night sky quality, with between 74% and 89% of all visitors supporting seven different management actions. There was stronger support from dark sky dependent visitors for some elements of alternative lighting practices, but there was still strong support for those who do not participate in dark sky dependent outdoor recreation. Additionally, between 57% and 75% of visitors were interested in learning more about topics related to night skies. This research indicates most visitors would welcome actions to preserve the quality of the rapidly dwindling naturally dark experiences offered by parks and protected areas.

Publication Year 2023
Title Support for management actions to protect night sky quality: Insights from visitors to state and national park units in the U.S.
DOI 10.1016/j.jenvman.2023.118878
Authors J. Adam Beeco, Emily Jean Wilkins, Anna B. Miller, Chase C. Lamborn, Sharolyn Anderson, Zachary D. Miller, Jordan W. Smith
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Environmental Management
Index ID 70248240
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center