Big Bend Conservancy
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Tucson, Arizona, July 30, 2009 - The International Dark-Sky Association is pleased to announce the designation of the Dark Sky Friendly Development of Distinction to Sierra La Rana, located in the Big Bend Region of Texas. The Dark Sky Development of Distinction Award is a new award designated by IDA to promote subdivisions, master planned communities, and unincorporated townships whose planning actively promotes a more natural night sky but does not qualify for the International Dark Sky Community (IDSCommunity) award. This award differs from the IDS Community designation in that it is applicable to smaller, unincorporated areas and emphasizes planning and enforcement over initial sky quality (although great sky quality is a definite bonus). In order to qualify for the award, developments must have a comprehensive lighting scheme, exhibit developer and resident commitment to night sky protection, and achieve success in light pollution control.Sierra La Rana boasts an Astronomy Village with astronomy-specific deed restrictions and light pollution controls to maintain observational quality of the Village. The Village itself consists of nine parcels, and a common viewing area with concrete telescope pads, electricity, and picnic tables. Boasting an outstanding naked-eye limiting magnitude to 7.0 that allows viewing of typically invisible stars, the development area and Big Bend region has been home to the Texas Star Party since 1976."Over the last decade, I have traveled out to the prestine skies of West Texas to observe some of the faintest and most visually difficult astronomical objects in the heavens. The skies around the University of Texas' McDonald Observatory are some of the darkest in the world, and due to the arduous work to protect these skies by the Sierra La Rana development of Alpine I'm proud to recommend them as deserving the award," states Benjamin Jones, Leader of the Texas Section of the IDA. Jones continues by stating, "the work and standards that Sierra la Rana have established in West Texas are a model for all master planned communities."David L. Lambert, Director of McDonald Observatory, added his affirmation of the development: "The work and standards to which the owners, developers, and future residents of Sierra la Rana are committing themselves will not only help maintain McDonald Observatory's dark skies, they will provide a needed example to the rest of Alpine and the region."Gil Bartee, Vice President of Development for Sierra la Rana, is proud to receive the designation, "As a recipient of this award we are further compelled toward our mission of preserving the dark skies for residents of Sierra la Rana, the McDonald Observatory, and the Big Bend Region today and for future generations. This area has some of the darkest skies in the U.S. great for naked-eye, binocular, and telescope viewing. It's no wonder that stargazers travel hundreds, even thousands of miles to enjoy these skies."Already, management of Sierra La Rana in association with other proponents of the Dark Sky Community in Alpine are exploring steps to strengthen the Alpine Outdoor Lighting Ordinance and are working to establish a fund to assist in the retrofit of Alpine's nonconforming fixtures. Once this is complete, they plan to submit a request to community leaders to haveAlpine apply for the International Dark Sky Community designation.
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