Rainbow Bridge National Monument is National Park Service’s First Dark Sky Sanctuary

The National Park Service (NPS) has just been awarded their first-ever Dark Sky Sanctuary within their jurisdiction.

On April 16, the International Dark-Sky Association (IDSA) named Utah’s Rainbow Bridge National Monument as the fourth Dark Sky Sanctuary in the world.

“We’re thrilled to be the first National Park Service unit to receive this specific designation, as this will only fuel our night sky preservation efforts,” said William Shott, Superintendent of Rainbow Bridge National Monument and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in the press release announcing the designation.

While there are a number of other Dark Sky Parks within NPS boundaries, this is the first Dark Sky Sanctuary on NPS-operated lands. Dark Sky Sanctuaries differ from Dark Sky Parks or Reserves in that they “are the most remote (and often darkest) places in the world whose conservation state is most fragile.” Essentially, Sanctuaries are as remote as it can get from the effects of light pollution.

Rainbow Bridge is the second U.S. Dark Sky Sanctuary, with Cosmic Campground in New Mexico being the other. The two remaining Sanctuaries are Aotea/Great Barrier Island in New Zealand and Gabriela Mistral in Chile.

The Rainbow Bridge Dark Sky Sanctuary designation also brings a significant cultural impact as well to Native American tribes in the area.

“This designation is an important step to ensure we protect the entirety of the landscape at Rainbow Bridge National Monument, which is sacred to many of the Native American Tribes in the area,” Shott said.

The Hopi, Zuni, Navajo, San Juan Southern Paiute, Kaibab Paiute and Ute Mountain Ute tribes all consider the site sacred. Rainbow Bridge National Monument is also unique in that it’s one of the smallest units in the National Park Service at just 160 acres of land. Plus, it is accessible only by boat from Lake Powell or by backpacking in from Navajo Mountain.

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