Forest Preserve District of DuPage County conducts lighting audit to reduce light pollution

Forest Preserve District of DuPage County is conducting a lighting audit to reduce light pollution.

The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County recently reaffirmed its commitment to the dark- sky movement and to complying with the best-practice guidelines developed by DarkSky International, an authority on light pollution.

The Forest Preserve District realizes the harmful effects of light pollution — unwanted or excessive artificial light — and takes its mandate to protect nature seriously. Scientific research shows that artificial night lighting has negative effects on a variety of species, including amphibians, birds, mammals, insects and plants.

Of the 26,000 acres of land managed by the Forest Preserve District, only 125.6 acres, or 0.4%, are currently impacted by lighting. At Pratt’s Wayne Woods in Wayne and Springbrook Prairie in Naperville, spanning 3,441 and 1,824 acres, respectively, only 1 acre at each is affected by Forest Preserve District-emitted lighting. But the Forest Preserve District is committed to leading by example and educating the public about the importance of preserving dark skies and wants to do better, according to a news release.

”We’re regrouping to see where we can take things even further,” Forest Preserve District facilities manager Jason Berger said in a news release. “We’re conducting a comprehensive exterior lighting audit to eliminate any unnecessary lighting altogether and to identify additional opportunities for improvements.”

The Forest Preserve District now puts outdoor lighting at the forefront of planning considerations for its capital projects and is working to retrofit or replace existing lighting systems as part of routine maintenance renewal handled by district electricians. When evaluating a site’s lighting needs, the Forest Preserve District applies DarkSky International’s five principles for responsible outdoor lighting — that it’s useful, targeted, low-level, controlled and warm-colored.

Basically, lighting should be no brighter than necessary, energy-efficient and only operated when necessary.

”Artificial outdoor light can disrupt the natural environment for many species. This includes nocturnal animals that use darkness as cover while hunting, amphibians who call at night as part of their breeding rituals and migrating birds that navigate by moonlight and starlight,” Director of Natural Resources Erik Neidy said in the release. “Not to mention that many insects are drawn to artificial light, which can give an unfair advantage to hungry predators and cause challenges for insects like lightning bugs that use light to attract mates.”

The Forest Preserve District has prioritized lighting upgrades for its current budget year, and enhancements are planned or already underway at Fullersburg Woods in Oak Brook, Greene Valley in Naperville, Herrick Lake in Wheaton, Hidden Lake in Downers Grove, Churchill Woods in Glen Ellyn, Danada in Wheaton and at the family campground at Blackwell in Warrenville.

Fixtures will be DarkSky compliant and selected for energy efficiency. Facilities Management works closely with law enforcement to take a thoughtful approach to the placement of fixtures, motion sensors, timers, manual switches and other technologies to ensure the safety of forest preserve visitors and staff.

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