YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. - General Electric Co., known for bringing "good things to life," is now helping to take man-made light out of the world's first national park.
The GE Foundation, the philanthropic arm of General Electric Co., has donated nearly $100,000 to help return darkness to the skies of Yellowstone.
The irony of a world-famous light bulb company preserving darkness was not lost on Lisa Diekmann, executive director of the Yellowstone Park Foundation, which secured the grant.
"They're still going to light the world," she said. "They're just not going to light up the world."
Darkness is becoming an increasingly precious natural resource, said Eleanor Williams Clark, the park's chief landscape architect.
"It's becoming more significant as the world gets brighter," Clark said Wednesday. "We've actually had visitor complaints about light pollution interfering with their experience."
More visitors are coming to Yellowstone to enjoy stars, comets and meteor showers, she said. Park officials have responded by creating more educational programs centered around astronomy, Clark said.
"We have skies in which you can really see the Milky Way," Clark said. "In a lot of urban areas, you can't even find the moon."
But bright lights are polluting the skies in some of the park's developed areas, such as Old Faithful, she said.
Moreover, bright lights can actually make the park less safe, Clark said. As park visitors walk from brightly-lit developed areas to darker less-developed areas, it takes longer for their eyes to adjust, Clark said.
The National Park Service has little money to address light pollution. So park officials turned to the Yellowstone Foundation, which then asked GE for help. GE is based in Fairfield, Conn.
GE Lighting Systems immediately donated more than 50 light fixtures, which included GE Criterion fixtures that direct light downwards. Park officials are experimenting with the new fixtures.
The grant money will enable park officials to inventory light fixtures in developed areas. The park's goal is to replace all fixtures that send light upward with lights that focus down and toward the intended target, Clark said.
Lighting studies show that about 18 percent of light from existing fixtures emit light upward, contributing to "sky glow."
The Yellowstone "Night Sky" program will also install newer bulbs that do not have to be replaced as frequently, resulting in additional savings in park staff time, Clark said.