Lights Out, Oregon!

by Mary Coolidge, BirdSafe & Lights Out Campaign Coordinator

Peak Spring Migration (April 15-May 15) is upon us, and there is lots of news, both promising and challenging, about the state of the skies that host millions of night-migrating birds during this enchanting season.

A recent study on the change in visibility of stars from 2011 to 2022 shows that sky brightness is increasing globally by nearly 10% per year, effectively doubling sky brightness every eight years. Light pollution not only robs us of our own view of the heavens, it also has serious ecological consequences, with demonstrated impacts on over 200 species of birds, fish, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates, and plants.

Night migration, composite phot by Frans Lanting

Oregon Sky Quality Meter (SQM) Network

With support from 30 volunteers, the Oregon chapter of DarkSky Oregon is measuring skyglow at 44 sites around Oregon and tracking trends in light pollution over time.

No surprise—the two SQMs in Portland show the highest levels of light pollution in the state, while fast-growing areas in central Oregon are also showing substantial increases. In better news, the sites with the starriest skies show little increase in light pollution and still provide world-class dark skies.

Portland’s meters have not been running long enough to establish trends in light pollution, but most anyone in Portland can tell you anecdotally that light pollution is on the rise. There is no better time to join the effort to protect our night skies than right now!

House Bill 3202

Representative Zach Hudson has introduced a bill to curb light pollution on Oregon state lands, a strategic step toward bringing the state into a leadership role by addressing light pollution on its own lands. Existing lighting policies are not enough to curtail the growth of light pollution. We need our policy makers to take sensible action to ensure that we are strategically and comprehensively addressing this critical environmental issue, and this is a solid first step. Thanks to the over 400 of you who submitted letters in support of this bill!

Many cities and counties in Oregon have already enacted policies to address light pollution locally (including Port Orford, Yachats, Wilsonville, Sun River, Tualatin, Multnomah County, and soon Portland). Oregon Parks and Recreation is doing great work on this issue—they know that one of the most valuable resources they provide to park visitors is the night sky! Prineville Reservoir State Park is the first state park in Oregon to achieve International Dark-Sky Park Certification, with Cottonwood Canyon close on its heels and Wallowa Lake on the way. Join our activist list to stay up to date on this bill!

Portland Dark Skies Effort

Bird Alliance of Oregon regularly gets calls from the public asking for help in addressing light pollution issues, everything from light trespass from city streetlights to excessive and poorly designed lighting on public or commercial buildings. This year, Portland City Council awarded funding to develop a long overdue local lighting ordinance. The City is in the process of hiring a consultant to help guide the development of code, and we will need your help advocating at the Planning Commission and at City Council to ensure that we are making meaningful progress to save what is left of our night skies. Stay tuned for action alerts, coming up soon!

Go Lights Out!

Every migration season we share LightsOut Red Alerts from Colorado University’s AeroEco Lab, highlighting the nights when the most birds are moving across our dark skies. Keep an eye out for Red Alert nights this April and May, and turn off any unnecessary overnight lighting to help keep birds safe and aloft on their way to their nesting grounds.