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Serious Starlight - Big Bend Dark Sky Reserve

Tax deductible
Big Bend Conservation Alliance’s Serious Starlight program assists homeowners and municipalities in the Far West Texas region that wish to opt-in to night-sky-friendly lighting with fixtures that point light down at the ground rather than up into the sky.

This work supports the Big Bend International Dark Sky Reserve, a designation which the International Dark-Sky Association has bestowed on the area. This designation is the largest “Dark Sky Reserve” in the world and helps protect major wildlife habitats and migration corridors in the Big Bend region of Far West Texas and Northern Mexico. The designation boosts regional tourism, which is the major economic driver of the area, and the astronomical research being conducted at the McDonald Observatory.

As part of the designation, the area’s residents and its municipalities are required to demonstrate ongoing efforts to reduce light pollution. The Serious Starlight program gives the region the chance to make this progress without putting undue hardship on residents and towns. The program rolls out in two parts—a municipal program and a residential program.


All towns in the region updated outdoor lighting ordinances to support obtaining a "Dark Sky Reserve" designation from the International Dark-Sky Association. In a parallel process, Big Bend Conservation Alliance worked to understand what this designation would mean for the region and the organization mapped non-compliant municipal and residential fixtures, to quantify the changes ahead.

Mapping revealed that the worst areas of light pollution were occurring lower income neighborhoods often in formerly segregated areas of town. In one example: 60% of municipal fixtures of the town were compliant, but the compliant fixtures were mostly located in affluent areas of town and, as a result, the majority of the light pollution was affecting lower income residents.

As part of the municipal program, BBCA offers to assist municipalities in switching their street lights to dark sky compliant fixtures. While some municipalities have already made headway in this work, many have not and have scarce funds to become compliant. 


Big Bend Conservation Alliance offers to assist residents in switching their old mercury vapor guard lights to dark sky compliant fixtures. The mercury vapor guard lights are a substantial problem in fighting light pollution in the Big Bend because they emit light in all directions and are not compliant with city ordinances; many are more than twenty years old.

As part of the residential incentive program, residents with qualifying fixtures can opt-in to the program. BBCA will work with AEP to have the light changed and pay AEP directly so there are no out-of-pocket expenses. The resident saves $3 on their monthly electric bill and receives a $50 gift card to the local grocery store for their participation.

Why is the Serious Starlight Fundraiser important?

Additionally, as part of the designation, the International Dark Sky Association  will want to see an ongoing effort to protect the night sky once the Big Bend International Dark Sky Reserve is established. Having dedicated funds to provide needed light shielding and education is a critical measure of Big Bend Conservation Alliance’s ongoing commitment to do the support work required.

Is my donation tax-deductible?

Yes, Big Bend Conservation Alliance  is a 501c3 nonprofit. In supporting BBCA through this donation, your tax deduction is limited to the excess of the contribution over the fair market value of any item received in exchange for your donation. 

What is a Dark Sky Reserve?

A “Dark Sky Reserve” is a certification from the International Dark Sky Association for lands which possess an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment.  

The proposed Big Bend International Dark Sky Reserve represents the continuing effort to preserve one of the few remaining, naturally dark, and readily accessible, night skies in North America. The designation protects ongoing astronomical research at McDonald Observatory; promotes awareness of the night sky; educates about effective and efficient outdoor lighting practices; and protects wildlife habitats.

Prefer to send a check?

Please make it out to “Big Bend Conservation Alliance.” In the check’s memo line, please write “Serious Starlight,” so we know how to direct the funds and send to:

PO Box 1721
Alpine, TX 79831


Shelley Bernstein
Executive Director
Big Bend Conservation Alliance
[email redacted]


  • Wendy Atwell
    • $1,000 
    • 4 mos
  • Josh Jones-Dilworth
    • $1,000 
    • 7 mos
  • Carroll Swenson-Roberts
    • $100 
    • 9 mos
  • Ady Fong
    • $1,000 
    • 9 mos
  • Ami Patel
    • $1,000 
    • 9 mos


Big Bend Conservation Alliance
Alpine, TX
Big Bend Conservation Alliance

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