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Dark skies bill moves through legislature

The Nevada Senate has recently passed a bill to form a “Dark Sky Places” program that would encourage communities around the state, including those in Nye County, to recognize and foster the growing importance of dark skies.

The bill aims to amend the statute authorizing the Nevada Division of Outdoor Recreation to create a program to award a state-level dark sky designation for communities working voluntarily to celebrate and preserve the dark sky natural resources that they have in abundance.

SB52 also promotes responsible lighting practices and other methods to reduce light pollution from the built environment to help preserve dark skies. The bill recognizes the communities and places in Nevada working to promote and conserve their outdoor recreation opportunities, sustainably and responsibly, including the vast dark skies that many of these communities enjoy, said Colin Robertson, administrator of the Nevada Division of Outdoor Recreation.

“SB52 leverages the new Nevada Division of Outdoor Recreation to educate and inform the public about the importance, benefits, and value of Nevada’s dark night skies,” Robertson said in an email.

The main goal of the legislation is to encourage communities across the state to recognize and work to foster the growing importance of dark sky - and outdoor recreation-driven preservation and tourism in local, especially rural, communities, Robertson said. Communities across the state would be eligible to participate in the program.

There is a growing body of evidence pointing to the importance of rural community and economic development driven by outdoor recreation and outdoor recreation-based tourism, particularly in rural communities, Robertson said.

Another big goal of the legislation is to encourage communities in Nevada that are working to diversify their economies “around sustainable outdoor recreation to include healthy, fun, safe opportunities to recreate at night, too, and to work to conserve and protect the dark sky resources in those communities,” Robertson said.

The bill was passed unanimously by the Senate Natural Resources Committee and then passed again unanimously by the full Senate last week. The next steps include Assembly Natural Resources Committee review, and if passed, it would undergo full Assembly review.

If approved by the Assembly, the bill would be submitted to Governor Steve Sisolak to become law.

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