Progress Report: City of Portland Dark Skies Program

By Mary Coolidge, BirdSafe and Lead-Free Campaign Coordinator

May opens with a heavenly bang: on Thursday, May 7, night sky enthusiasts can look to the eastern horizon at sunset and watch the rise of the last of this year’s three full “supermoons.” These occur when the moon’s full phase coincides with the moon’s closest approach to the earth in its lunar orbit…thus appearing especially large and lustrous.

It’s a beacon of wonder in the night sky, and a bold invitation to support our dark skies initiatives here at Bird Alliance of Oregon!

Photo by Harun Mehmedinovic

Last June, with the steadfast help of our esteemed late city commissioner Nick Fish, we successfully lobbied the mayor and City Council to award funding for the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability to explore avenues to preserve dark skies in Portland—for migrating birds, for ecosystem health, for the health and safety of the city’s human residents, and for the love of stars! 

The City’s report on that work is scheduled to be released for review this month (May). It is a synthesis of the light pollution issue and its impacts on human health, wildlife and ecosystem health, public safety, energy waste and night sky viewing, and best practices for mitigating it. It looks at what other jurisdictions have done (locally and nationally), existing conditions in Portland, and Portland plans and policies that already address it. The report also recommends next steps for strategically curbing Portland’s light pollution, including code amendments, integration into the City’s Green Building Policy for city-owned facilities, and fully funding PBOT’s shield request program to help meet the public demand for streetlight shields to keep light from trespassing into people’s homes, a program that currently has a months-long backlog!

How you can help:

  • Comment on the Public Review Discussion Draft, which will be linked on our website as soon as it becomes available. City staff are working to schedule virtual public open houses and virtual targeted outreach meetings, likely in June. We will keep you apprised, so stay tuned for more information!
  • Participate in the City Council Hearing. Originally scheduled for June 2020, but now likely delayed due to circumstances surrounding COVID-19. We will post the date on our website as soon as it is scheduled.
  • Take the Pledge to Go Lights Out! Learn more.
  • Get on Bird Alliance of Oregon’s Action Alert list to receive updates about the Lights Out program. Learn more.
  • If a street light shines light into your house/apartment, request a shield from the Bureau of Transportation. Learn more.