PMRF goes to ‘Dark Skies’

It will definitely be darker on Pacific Missile Range Facility beginning tonight as the base begins its “Dark Skies” program.

PMRF will be turning off all non-essential lighting on the base and modifying night time operations to help protect rare Hawaiian seabirds and prevent “shearwater fallout.”

“Conservation of the environment and wildlife are top priorities for PMRF. We take our environmental responsibility seriously and are consistently working to safeguard the environment and wildlife,” said Captain Vincent Johnson, Commanding Officer, Pacific Missile Range Facility. “The ‘Dark Skies’ program is a combined base effort.”

He said mission operations, schedule changes, training, safety and security of the base and its residents all have to be taken into account.

“A lot of advanced planning is required to ensure that we achieve our mission and help keep the birds safe at the same time,” Johnson said. ” It’s truly a Team PMRF effort and one that cannot be accomplished without the support and cooperation of every member of the PMRF Ohana and the neighboring community,”

The Newell’s Shearwater and Hawaiian Petrel are two of Hawaii’s seabirds protected by the Endangered Species Act. During the shearwater fledging season which runs from today to Dec. 15, fledglings of these mountain-nesting birds leave the safety of their nests to make their nocturnal maiden voyages to sea using the position of the stars and natural light from the moon to plot their courses.

Unfortunately, a number of these birds become disoriented by mistaking manmade lights for natural moonlight as they fly over inhabited areas of the island. This can result in a bird accidentally flying into a building, light, electric power cable, or circling a light until they are too exhausted to reroute to sea and eventually falling to the ground, sustaining injury, being hit by a car or falling prey to domestic and wild animals.

This is the second year that PMRF is initiating the “Dark Skies’ program. PMRF personnel have been working to ensure the program is successful by conducting pre-season lighting checks, identifying potential areas to minimize impact, informing and educating base personnel and ensuring procedures are in place to aid an injured bird in need of assistance.

John Nelson, PMRF installation environmental program director, shared some tips on how the PMRF community can help protect these seabirds and what to do if they find one in need of help.

Those tips include turning off all unnecessary outdoor lighting, drawing curtains and blinds during the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., keep pets leashed and supervised at all times and refrain from feeding wildlife including feral cats.

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