Cévennes Park second in France to get Dark Sky status

The Milky Way sets over Mont Lozère in Cévennes National Park (Guillaume Cannat)

The Cévennes National Park in Occitanie has been named as an International Dark Sky Reserve, becoming only the second to be named in France, and the 13th in the world.

The official title is granted by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA).

According to the association’s own website, the status denotes either a public or private area of land deemed to possess “an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment”.

The Cévennes National Park is a 2,973 square km area across the Lozère, Gard, Ardèche and Aveyron.

It is only the second area of France to be granted Dark Sky status, after the Pic du Midi in the Hautes-Pyrénées.

An area must apply online to be considered for the title. It must satisfy the IDA’s requirements to be successful - with this status taking four years of work.

Anne Legile, director of the Park, said: “We were asked to prove the quality of the sky that we have, and ran campaigns with measures to darken the sky. Now, on a scale of 16 to 23 - 23 being the darkest possible such as in the middle of a desert - we are on 21. It’s an exceptional quality of sky.”

International Dark Sky Reserves seek to protect areas from encroaching light pollution, and protect the natural environment of dark spaces.

Géraldine Costes, technical environmental worker at the Cévennes National Park, said: “There are 60% fewer nighttime pollinator [animals] on a lit-up piece of land compared to one that is dark. We do not think that turning on a light will harm the environment, but actually, [this means that] nighttime spaces no longer have their usual conditions.”

A nighttime party in honour of the Park’s new status was held on Monday (August 13). A new photograph book showing the beauty of the space is also planned for release.

One party attendee said: “We would like to safeguard this space, which is magnificent. In town, there are buildings; in the countryside, we have more air, it is less hot, and there is such incredible space.”

Both French Parks are part of a list of just 13 Dark Sky Reserves across the world.

These include the Brecon Beacons National Park and Snowdonia National Park in Wales; Central Idaho in the US; Exmoor National Park in England; Westhavelland in Germany; Aoraki Mackenzie in New Zealand; Mont-Megantic in Quebec; and the NamibRand Nature Reserve in Namibia.

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