Montana's Glacier National Park and Canada's Waterton Lakes National Park just became a "transboundary" International Dark Sky Park — making stargazing even more major.
Both parks, now known as Waterton-Glacier International Dark Sky Park, recently completed overhauls in installing dark sky-friendly lighting, which reduces the impact of artificial lighting on wildlife, protects human health, and helps preserve the darkness of the skies to make it easier to see stars.
"Dark night skies are an important wilderness characteristic at Glacier National Park," Pete Webster, acting superintendent of Glacier National Park, said in a statement. "Clearly seeing the expanse of the universe increases a person's sense of solitude well beyond that of the terrestrial landscape. A Dark Skies designation aids International Peace Park visitors in finding their own wilderness solitude."
Glacier National Park has been recognized by the International Dark Sky Association since 2017. But in order to achieve this new designation, the park implemented several updates, including new LED streetlights. Dark sky-compliant lighting generally directs light downward instead of up and reduces glow from bulbs. Park residences have been outfitted with new, dark sky-friendly fixtures and LED bulbs and the roll-out will continue to other parts of the park later this year.
Waterton Lakes, in Alberta, has installed new LED streetlights featuring a custom LED color temperature to assist in efforts against light pollution. Parks Canada will continue replacing park lighting with new custom bulbs over time.
Dark Sky initiatives not only make for fantastic nighttime sky-gazing but help improve ecological health. Nocturnal animals may rely on complete darkness for foraging, mating, and migration. Light pollution also represents energy waste at parks.
Dark Sky Status is the fourth shared designation for the two parks. Both Waterton Lakes and Glacier are International Peace Parks, Biosphere Reserve, and World Heritage Sites.