AUSTIN (KXAN) — Central Texas lies within the main corridor of North American bird migration with flocks of aviators flying south for the winter and vice versa for the summer. But despite the innate directional awareness, some birds can get confused or harmed by lights shining in our backyards, neighborhoods and towns.
To avoid migration disruptions, some local cities are doing their part to protect the skies overhead by cutting down on light pollution. This not only benefits migrating birds, but it also cuts down on unwanted or escaped light, energy costs and consumption and obscurations of planets and stars.
The International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) is a voluntary network whose goal is to educate and promote the benefits of less-light-polluted night skies. The dark sky program, founded in 2001, encourages communities to have effective and eco-friendly outdoor lighting.
The IDA’s dark-sky program approves cities as “International Dark-Sky Communities” through a rigorous application process. The IDA defines a dark-sky community as “a town, city, municipality, or other legally organized community that has shown exceptional dedication to the preservation of the night sky through the implementation and enforcement of a quality outdoor lighting ordinance, dark sky education and citizen support of dark skies.”
Cities must undergo extensive outdoor light evaluations, perform educational workshops and promote the benefits of being a dark sky community with public outreach to be considered.
In Texas, there are five cities that have met that criteria and earned the title of International Dark-Sky Community. All five are located here in Central Texas:
- Dripping Springs: designated in 2014
- Horseshoe Bay: designated in 2015
- Wimberly Valley (Wimberly + Woodcreek): designated in 2018
- Fredericksburg: designated in 2020
- Blanco: designated in 2022
Quick facts about our local dark-sky communities:
- Horseshoe Bay currently has no streetlights, nor plans to install them unless a situation is deemed critical to public safety.
- In 2015, a group of volunteers formed the “Wimberley Valley Dark Sky Committee” whose goal is lobby for change and educate residents on the benefits of dark skies.
- Blanco, the newest designated dark sky community, held essay, art and songwriting contests highlighting the integrity of a dark sky.
- Dripping Springs was the first city in Texas and the sixth in the world to be designated an International Dark-Sky Community.
IN-DEPTH: Four of Texas’ state parks have earned the title of “International Dark-Sky Parks” — Big Bend Ranch, Enchanted Rock, Copper Breaks and South Llano River.