Whether you use just your eyes or a telescope, there is something truly humbling about seeing planets, the Milky Way, meteors, comets, or even deep sky objects. This experience is something that can easily be taken for granted. New research suggests that light pollution obscures the Milky Way from nearly 8 in every 10 people who live in North America.

Here, in the heart of central Idaho, we see things differently. We’ve come to acknowledge that this pristine night sky is part of our heritage and worth preserving for our children and future generations. It is to that end that we aim to create a Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve.

Our effort is the expression of a collective commitment by communities, private land owners, and public land managers to support the night sky experience. Together we will preserve and enhance our superior nighttime ambiance and its benefit for health, environment, and tourism. The Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve will be the first of its kind in the United States and will set the standard for other communities to follow. Through this effort we hope to:

  • Preserve and enhance the natural nighttime experience to improve quality-of-life.
  • Highlight the economic benefits associated with dark sky compliant lighting –from energy savings to tourism revenue.
  • Conserve our robust nocturnal ecosystems and support the needs of wildlife.
  • Enhance local scientific and educational opportunities through astronomy and other natural studies.
  • Promote our dark skies as a unique community asset and part of our local and national heritage


  • Sawtooths
  • White Clouds
  • Stanley
  • Sawtooth Valley
  • Ketchum
  • Sun Valley

The Reserve Concept

A Dark Sky Reserve is a designation awarded to a locale by the International Dark Sky Association (IDSA) acknowledging exceptional night sky brilliance and community commitment to minimizing artificial light pollution. This designation is achieved through a formal application and approval process with IDSA. Reserves generally consist of a dark “core” zone surrounded by a more populated periphery (or buffer zone). The core often involves lands preserved for scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage protection and public enjoyment. Though there is no specific size requirement, the core and surrounding buffer area must be large enough to afford meaningful public access and outreach. The Reserve also acts as a dark sky resource for surrounding communities and visitors wishing to enjoy night skies and their benefits.

Explore the world’s eleven existing Dark Sky Reserves


The Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve

As currently proposed, the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve would encompass portions of Blaine and Custer Counties, including the communities of Ketchum, Smiley Creek, Stanley, and Sun Valley, as well as the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. (The Reserve area could later be expanded if the local communities desired). The proposed core zones would exclude private land, would overlap both Blaine and Custer Counties, portions of the White Cloud and Sawtooth Wilderness and would provide access to those wishing to experience pristine night skies in a beautiful, uncluttered setting. An application is being prepared and will be delivered to the International Dark Sky Association for consideration in 2017.

FAQ sheet on the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve

Draft Reserve Map

For more information or if you have questions please email dmazzotta@idahoconservation.org




More than 80% of the world’s population lives under light-polluted skies. The time is now to preserve and enhance the places where the stars still shine brightly through.