About the Dark Sky Cooperatives

A Collaboration to Protect Night Skies

The Dark Sky Cooperatives of the Colorado Plateau and the Basin and Range are supported through a partnership with the Institute of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism at Utah State University and the National Park Service’s Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division, in a collaborative effort to educate, protect, and inspire wonder in natural night skies.

Map of the Darkest Skies in the Lower 48 States: the Basin and Range, and Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperatives
Map of the Darkest Skies in the Lower 48 States, showing the Basin and Range, and Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperatives
and New World Atlas data of artificial night sky brightness, Falchi, et.al. 2016.

The Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative

The Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative (CPDSC) has over a decade of experience and dedication applied to the promotion and protection of naturally dark skies. Hear from past Natural Park Service, Natural Sounds and Night Skies Coordinator, Randy Stanley, on how the Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative came to be in this short video:

How the Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative Came To Be

Video: How the Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative Came To Be

The Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative has worked with countless partners and dark sky champions to identify acceptable night-friendly lighting practices and associated educational programs and outreach to ensure quality night skies. Learn more about their great work on the Spotlights page. Since 2012, a surge of applications have been submitted by federal, state, and local parks, and communities from across the Colorado Plateau to the International Dark-Sky Association's (IDA) International Dark-Sky Places program. The exceptional dedication to dark skies throughout the region is what brings the notable distinction that the Colorado Plateau hosts the highest concentration of accredited dark sky places compared to anywhere in the world.

The Colorado Plateau is recognized for its great annual festivals, numerous star parties, and educational events honoring the night sky. The University of Utah has dedicated research and academic programs to enhance the science around dark skies with the Consortium for Dark Sky Studies and Minor in Dark Sky Studies program, respectively. Anyone new to the science, management, culture, or art around night skies, is invited to explore the Dark Sky Toolkit for resources that can protect and connect to the night.


The Cooperative serves its stakeholders through: 

  1. Coordination & Network Building: Coordinate efforts, communicate effectively, share resources and information, and provide mutual support to the larger network of dark sky advocates throughout the Colorado Plateau region.
  2. Outreach & Education: Assist in the creation, promotion, facilitation, and improvement of the public’s understanding of the benefits and implications of night sky conservation.
  3. Tools, Guides, & Resources: Support, create, and share actionable tools, guides, and resources that support landscape scale approaches to dark sky conservation.
  4. Support & Technical Assistance: Provide direct support and technical assistance to build the knowledge and capacity of stakeholders relative to their own dark sky conservation goals and activities.


The Cooperative is commited to current and future generations so all can enjoy the starry nights over our public lands and neighboring gateway communities, by focusing on the following priorities:  

  1. Encourage new and continuing IDA accreditations of parks and protected areas in the region
  2. Support gateway communities especially those near parks and public lands in handling the complexities of outdoor lighting and signage, while capturing the clean economic development and job creation opportunities of astro-tourism
  3. Strengthen understanding of both the science and art of the cosmos
  4. Inspire celebrations of night sky traditions, including those of tribal nations, diverse cultures, and the rising generation
  5. Recognize the social justice aspects of dark skies and work to expand access to natural nighttime darkness
  6. Share knowledge and news of lighting technology, design, and innovation
  7. Operate within the broader context of environmental stewardship and global survival

The momentum around night sky conservation continues to advance across the Colorado Plateau and beyond. We encourage any individual or entity to join us as we strive to engage all stakeholders in the process to educate, conserve, and restore our exceptional night skies.

Historic Timeline

Historic events leading up to the creation of the Colorado Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative (1999 - 2012):

Historic timeline of the formation of the Colorad Plateau Dark Sky Cooperative

"Blue hour" at Dead Horse State Park

Blue hour at Dead Horse State Park

Photo credit: Bettymaya Foott