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Oneida and Vilas County Conservation Departments encourage people to reduce their light pollution


As a night photographer, Michele Sadauskas loves living in the Northwoods.

“We’ve got some dark skies out there. We can see the Milky Way. 70-something percent of people in America can’t. That’s something really cool up in the Northwoods. We can see the milky way. We can see meteors,” said Sadauskas.

But as the Oneida County Conservationist, Sadauskas also knows that the night sky is threatened by light pollution, even in the Northwoods.

“There are some really nice dark spots up in the Northwoods but cities such as Minocqua, Eagle River, Rhinelander there’s a lot of light pollution coming off even smaller cities,” said Sadauskas.

For night photographers, even a far-off city can cast a glow on the horizon.

That light pollution also has an environmental and health impact.

“Migration routes and migrating animals. They often navigate by stars, by moonlight. So when we have very light-polluted areas, they become disorientated, maybe attracted to light, they get off their migration route, using more energy. Light pollution certainly has a negative effect when it comes to migrating,” said Sadauskas.

Sadauskas says there is research showing trees and plants exposed to a lot of light pollution have altered budding or leaf-shedding cycles.

There are even possible effects on human health.

“I think we’re just starting to understand about the effects of light pollution and human health, the blue light, the LED, and the sleep patterns and some of the health issues. I think we’re starting to understand more of that,” said Sadauskas.

Saturday is the start of International Dark Sky week. People are encouraged to turn off the lights and enjoy the night sky.

Oneida and Vilas County Land and Water Conservation Departments are also promoting two “Lights Out” weekends this summer.

The first is for a firefly watch on June 17th and 18th.

The second is timed with the Perseid Meteor Shower on August 12th and 13th.

“Both of those weekends are what we call new moon, so there is no moon. It’s nice and dark to get out and experience our great night skies in the great environment that we have out here,” said Sadauskas. “[We’re] hoping that people switch off their lights on those weekends. You know, ‘hey lets just try not having our lights on for that weekend and see what it’s like.’”

Sadauskas hopes it will also inspire people to go a step further and reduce light pollution year-round.

She recommends switching to motion sensor lights so they’re on only when needed.

Make sure lights are pointed down or have a cover so they’re not casting as much light upwards.

Using lights with warmer, yellow tints rather than colder, blue tints helps too.

“And just being aware of how much light you’re using out on the landscape,” said Sadauskas.

You can learn more about the Lights Out events on the Oneida County Land and Water Conservation website.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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