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The Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Northern Minnesota just got a very cool designation. They have been designated a Dark Sky Sanctuary. With this designation, the BWCA actually becomes the 13th Dark Sky Sanctuary and also the largest Dark Sky Sanctuary in the world!

Dark Sky Sanctuaries are designated by the International Dark Sky Association (IDA). A news release about BWCA being designated a Dark Sky Sanctuary writes that the IDA "is a non-profit organization founded in 1988 with the goal of reducing light pollution and protecting night skies for the present and into the future."

What can be designated a Dark Sky Sanctuary? What are the qualifications? Here's what the IDA says on their website:

[A] Dark Sky Sanctuary is public or private land that has an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is protected for its scientific, natural, or educational value, its cultural heritage and/or public enjoyment.

Well, that description perfectly fits the Boundary Waters.

Not only does this designation make the BWCA the largest Dark Sky Sanctuary in the world, but it also makes it the first one in Minnesota and it's also the first one that is a federally designated wilderness site.

Here is a list of the other places around the world that have been designated Dark Sky Sanctuaries: