Collaborating with park neighbors, engaging in productive dialogue, and building relationships

Randy Stanley Natural Sounds & Night Skies Coordinator, National Park Service Regional Office, Serving Department of Interior Regions 6, 7, & 8

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“One of my most fulfilling responsibilities is collaborating with our park neighbors— engaging in productive dialogue and building relationships with land managers, counties, and local communities to safeguard our park resources.”

As the Natural Sounds & Night Skies Coordinator for the National Park Service (NPS), Intermountain Region (IMR), I am privileged to serve our parks and partners within eight states (AZ, CO, MT, NM, OK, TX, UT and WY).

Building & developing programs

My role involves many things— building and developing programs to support parks, coordinating and providing direct technical assistance to park managers, providing guidance and support for dark sky park applications, facilitating technical support, assisting with park monitoring requests, and providing tools and other inputs to meet park compliance needs.

We are fortunate that rugged terrain, high elevation, clean air, low humidity, cloud-free nights, low population, and other factors here have produced some of the best night sky views in the nation. Recognizing this special resource, our park staff have led the way, resulting in 18 NPS IMR parks with dark sky certifications. I am lucky to have worked with most of our region’s national parks, from Arches to Zion. Of many special memories, I vividly recall camping this spring at the edge of Canyonlands National Park, Horseshoe Canyon Unit— seeing the zodiacal light and many stars so clearly with my park colleagues. Working with park staff and partners keeps my job rewarding and fun!

Collaborating with our park neighbors

One of my most fulfilling responsibilities is collaborating with our park neighbors— engaging in productive dialogue and building relationships with land managers, counties, and local communities to safeguard our park resources. A “good neighbor” policy, one that improves our mutual understanding and value for the night sky, is critical to protecting this invaluable resource. My work with the Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative (our nation’s first dark sky cooperative), coordinator Aubrey Larsen (along with past coordinators Bettymaya Foott and Nate Ament), and its many key stakeholders is particularly rewarding.

Partners

There are so many great partners that it’s impossible to name them all. Our park volunteers assist us with astronomy outreach and other public night sky programming, and sometimes even dark sky park applications! The NPS Natural Sounds & Night Skies Division has certainly led the way, providing park managers with critical knowledge and night sky monitoring data to inform resource condition assessments. Similarly, it’s hard to overstate the value that the International Dark Sky Association provides in so many areas of night sky conservation. Consortium for Dark Sky Studies members likewise serve a critical role, ensuring that educational curricula, student projects, and related research are meeting the needs of communities and other stakeholders within this region. I am grateful to work with all of these partners.

No one person can do it all

In concert with the mission of the Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative, I hope to continue working with communities, tribes, businesses, state agencies, federal agencies, and citizens in a collaborative effort to celebrate the view of the cosmos, minimize the impact of outdoor lighting, and ultimately restore natural darkness to our region. Understanding that the threat to our natural night sky view is a challenging one, requiring extensive public outreach and collective action, it is clear no one person can do it all. If there is a small role I can play, I am happy to do it!

About the Author

Randy is a huge science fiction and Star Trek fan. His favorite places to enjoy dark skies are remote sites in the Colorado Plateau.

If you would like to be featured please email darkskycooperative@gmail.com.

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