Valles Caldera National Preserve Partners With Local Community To Protect Night Skies

Before and after photos of a light fixtures in the Village of Jemez Springs. Photo Courtesy NPS


Valles Caldera National Preserve, in collaboration with its friends group, Los Amigos de Valles Caldera, announced the completion of a community lighting retrofit project with the Village of Jemez Springs and Hidden Valley Sporting Goods in the community of La Cueva. In total, 17 light fixtures were replaced with dark sky compliant light fixtures, and two other non-compliant fixtures were permanently removed. Los Amigos de Valles Caldera provided funding for the new fully shielded fixtures along with warm, amber colored LED light bulbs that will save on energy costs and reduce negative effects on wildlife at night.

At the preserve, the National Park Service has converted 72 percent of exterior building lights to dark sky compliant fixtures and color temperatures and plans to reach 100 percent in the coming years. The preserve offers some of the darkest skies in the state with spectacular opportunities for viewing the Milky Way, constellations, and meteor showers. Dark skies are also important from a natural and biological standpoint as many animals can be adversely affected by artificial light that interrupts natural cycles. However, the greatest threat to these quality night skies is skyglow and light pollution from surrounding communities.

“Dark night skies have inspired countless humans to dream, invent, and explore. It is my hope that this community partnership project will inspire others to protect our night skies as well,” said Supt. Jorge Silva-Bañuelos.

“Los Amigos de Valles Caldera is pleased to be a partner in the preserve’s effort to protect our local night skies by participating in this retrofit project and we fully support the preserve’s effort to receive certification as an International Dark Sky Park,” said Peggy Gautier, Board Chair of Los Amigos de Valles Caldera.

While in-person dark sky events are on hold due to the pandemic, the preserve has partnered with the Pajarito Environmental Education Center to offer virtual astronomy activities. More information can be found on the PEEC website. Visitors can also enjoy the preserve’s dark skies all night long from pullouts along NM State Route 4.

To further highlight this important resource in the Jemez Mountains, Valles Caldera is also seeking certification as an International Dark Sky Park from the International Dark-Sky Association. The certification promotes public education and astronomy-based recreation while improving energy efficiency and reduced operational costs through outdoor lighting upgrades, which in turn creates economic opportunities for neighboring communities through astronomy-based tourism. Support for this certification comes from local organizations and communities such as the Pajarito Astronomers, Pajarito Environmental Education Center, Los Amigos de Valles Caldera, Los Alamos County, and Village of Jemez Springs. Tags: valles caldera national preservedark skiesnight sky

Example of lighting retrofits completed at the Valle Grande Entrance Station. A total of five retrofits were completed throughout the preserve. Several other light fixtures were either disconnected from power, removed, or modified. As of today, 72 percent of the lighting on the preserve is night sky compliant. Photo Courtesy NPS

Hidden Valley Sporting Goods before and after. A total of four light fixtures were exchanged on the exterior of the building, courtesy of Los Amigos de Valles Caldera. Photo Courtesy NPS