Old Man on His Back – NEW Nocturnal Preserve

Old Man on His Back – NEW Nocturnal Preserve

Location: Old Man on His Back Ranch, Saskatchewan

Starry, starry night

(reproduced from the Nature Conservancy of Canada Website)

OMB is now a nocturnal preserve!

Night sky at Old Man on His Back Prairie and Heritage Conservation Area (Photo by Alan Dyer)Night sky at Old Man on His Back Prairie and Heritage Conservation Area (Photo by Alan Dyer)

Nestled in relative natural darkness from sunset to sunrise, Old Man on His Back Prairie and Heritage Conservation area (OMB) has been designated as a Nocturnal Preserve by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) as of 2015 and is the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s (NCC’s) first darkness preserve in all of Canada.

Quiet beauty

OMB is a sprawling 13,000-acre (5,261-hectare) ranch comprised of grasslands and native prairie located in southwestern Saskatchewan. The ranch has very little intrusion from articial lighting or any glow from nearby community and urban centres.

By day, the OMB ranch provides a rare opportunity to experience the ageless beauty of the natural Saskatchewan prairie, or perhaps view a herd of roaming plains bison that occupy the ranch — all of which is managed by NCC in Saskatchewan. By night, visitors can experience camping and quiet chats, gentle breezes and silence, all bathed in darkness. And on clear nights an occasional moon and thousands of stars.

Night skies = sustained and healthy lives

Natural darkness at night has restorative qualities for wildlife as well as for humans.

Artificial night lighting can blind birds, causing some to fly into structures or become disoriented and change their migration routes. Mammals like wolves and coyotes confuse their hunting and feeding patterns with predator and prey amidst shades of darkness and security. Plants respond to the length of darkness, and when interrupted by artificial night light, accept the dark periods as two short nights and change their flowering and developmental patterns.

At night insects fly toward artificial light and are easy prey for birds and larger insects, leaving less food for frogs, bats, salamanders and other small mammals. Insect breeding needs darkness, as well.

Human health is more affected by light and darkness than we realize. Our immune system produces antibodies that protect us from disease during day, but at night we repair our immune systems to guard against infection. Artificial night lighting interrupts our sleep patterns and can alter our hormone and immune systems.

The designation

OMB’s designation as a Nocturnal Preserve by the RASC helps protect the natural rhythm of day and night skies on this ranch for the benefit of people and wildlife. Nocturnal Preserves have minimal artificial light, non-lighted signage, and structures that confine external illumination. As a Nocturnal Preserve, OMB offers visitors the opportunity to experience the sights and sounds of a natural night.

The designation, part of the Dark Sky Preserve Program, is the newest of three RASC designations that aim to promote the protection of quality night sky and minimize light pollution. The RASC also awards the Dark Sky Preserve and the Urban Star Park designations. NCC’s OMB Ranch is among the first in Canada to receive the Nocturnal Preserve designation.

“Few of us have truly experienced the joy and wonder of a dark night sky,” says Natalie Nikiforuk, NCC natural areas manager for southwestern Saskatchewan. “This designation is ideal for OMB, with opportunity for all to experience…visitors young and old, astronomers and star-gazers who are amateur or professional, poets and artists and more.”

“We are very proud to have been awarded this designation,” says Mark Wartman, regional vice president of NCC’s Saskatchewan Region. “The importance of protecting dark night skies and less light pollution is just beginning to be understood. In addition to land conservation, NCC now accommodates another aspect of our natural environment: that of dark night skies!”

“Artificial night light can change the night environment with a profound impact on the ecological balance of an area,” says Robert Dick, chairperson of the Light Pollution Abatement Committee of the RASC. “Preventing outdoor lighting, or at least minimizing its impact, is a major step in the overall protection of our nocturnal environment. And NCC’s OMB ranch is an ideal setting as a Nocturnal Preserve.”

For more information on how to visit OMB ranch – head to:  http://www.visitcypresshills.ca/attractions/old-man-on-his-back-ranch/