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Science and Innovations

Astronomers, Advertisers Reach Compromise on Electronic Billboard Legislation

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Bob Wick, BLM
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Electronic billboards are restricted in most of Arizona to protect dark skies for astronomers. Now lawmakers have lifted the ban in a region of Mohave County. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.

Thirty-five electronic billboards will be allowed within a forty-mile radius of Bullhead City. That’s fewer billboards in a smaller area than advertisers originally wanted. The compromise was hammered out after astronomers in Flagstaff and Tucson defeated an earlier version of the bill.

Jeffrey Hall, director of Lowell Observatory, says, "Certainly reducing the area was a concession by the billboard industry; having any area at all was a concession by the astronomy industry, since any addition of boards is more light in the state."

Hall says he’s concerned Arizona’s dark sky protections will be stripped away as the state’s population grows. But he says the new billboards won’t directly affect major observatories. He also points to language in the bill that encourages advertisers to minimize light pollution.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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