Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness becomes International Dark Sky Sanctuary

A canoe portage in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. (Jennifer McDermed/FOX 9 / FOX 9)

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness is now a certified International Dark Sky Sanctuary, one of only 13 in the world. 

The International Dark Sky Association, a nonprofit founded in 1988 to reduce light pollution and protect night skies, designated the BWCAW a Dark Sky Sanctuary this summer, according to a news release from the U.S. Forest Service.  

“This designation confirms what people in the area have enjoyed for thousands of years. Dark skies, starry nights, and astonishing northern lights displays have been part of the experience long before the area was designated Wilderness with the passage of the 1964 Wilderness Act and 1978 BWCA Wilderness Act, subsequent legislation,” the U.S. Forest Service said in a statement. 

Boundary Waters Canoe Area sunset

A sunset in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. (Jennifer McDermed/FOX 9 / FOX 9)

The IDSA defines a Dark Sky Sanctuary as “public or private land that has an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is protected for its scientific, natural or educational value, its cultural heritage and/or public enjoyment,” according to the organization’s website. It differs from other Dark Sky designations in that sanctuaries are the most remote and often darkest places in the world whose conservation state is “most fragile.” 

The U.S. Forest Service has been working towards gaining Dark Sky Sanctuary status for the BWCAW since 2008. The BWCAW is the first site in Minnesota and the first federally designated wilderness area to receive this designation.