Presentation #319.02 in the session Recent Successes in Dark Skies Preservation: Flagstaff and Beyond (3).
One of McDonald Observatory’s greatest assets is its location under some of the darkest skies remaining in the contiguous United States. To help protect the night skies over southwest Texas, including the Observatory, we partnered with organizations across the region to established the Greater Big Bend International Dark Sky Reserve. Spanning over 14,000 square miles, the reserve is not only the largest in the world, but also the first of its kind to span an international border. The reserve is a culmination of almost five decades of efforts in the region, beginning with state legislation due to the research be conducted at McDonald observatory.
Prior to the establishment of the reserve, dark skies were already a priority in the region with several Dark Sky Parks and Sanctuaries already certified. Partners in the region wide efforts include: the National Park Service, Texas Parks and Wildlife, the Texas Nature Conservancy, half a dozen municipal governments, four counties Commissioners Courts, the Permian Basin oil and gas industry, Texan by Nature and two land protection agencies in Mexico. Our keys to success have hinged on these partnerships which have helped to broaden the language of night sky preservation beyond astronomy and into the regions of industrial safety, conservation, tourism, human health, energy efficiency, and international partnership. Initiatives including a Dark Sky Recognition Program, strong local and regional dark sky education programs, and relighting programs have assisted in building broad base support across the region.