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Environment

Big Cypress Preserve Now An International 'Dark Sky Park'

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Stephen Meszaros
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Night sky view from Big Cypress National Preserve. The yellowish-brown color is light pollution from the Miami area. The phenomenon is called "sky glow."

Big Cypress National Preserve is now internationally known as a “Dark Sky Park.” That means it’s lessening light pollution to preserve the night sky in parts of Collier, Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties. Some nights in Big Cypress National Preserve, you can actually see the Milky Way spreading across the sky. It’s because of sightings like this that federal wildlife officials worked nearly four years to make the preserve a Dark Sky Park.

To get the designation, at least 67 percent of the preserve’s lighting had to have “night sky friendly” features, like shields that point light down, rather than up and out. Some lights now have timers or motion sensors, and others were just removed altogether. Big Cypress park ranger Luke Gommermann said this dark area is important to local animals and people.

"The majority of wildlife that we have here they're either nocturnal or... active more in the dawn, dusk, or evening hours," said Gommermann. "So it's benefiting the wildlife that exists in Big Cypress National Preserve. But it's also benefiting the human inhabitants of our South Florida and across the world as not only to view the night sky, but also to appreciate the significance that it has in our lives."

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Credit Stephen Meszaros
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Big Cypress park ranger Luke Gommermann said people living in South Florida cities now have a place to view the night sky.

Gommermann said using less light will also save on electricity costs. He said the goal for Big Cypress is to have 100 percent of its lights be “night sky friendly” within 10 years. And wildlife officials also hope to eventually spread this dark sky movement to communities that surround the preserve. 

Central Florida's Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park was also designated an international "Dark Sky Place" this year.

Jessica Meszaros is a reporter and host of Morning Edition at WUSF Public Media, and former reporter and host of All Things Considered for WGCU News.