On Thursday, November 14, the DPW Playa Restoration All-Stars regrouped on the Black Rock Desert, meeting with the Bureau of Land Management to conduct the annual inspection of our site. If you didn’t know, everything we do hinges on this one moment: If we don’t pass our inspection, the BLM may not allow us to continue holding Burning Man on this public land.
That’s just one of the reasons that Burning Man is a Leave No Trace event (the other being that Leaving No Trace is a highly ethical ideal that’s wise to practice throughout every aspect of our lives). The BLM inspection is a major motivation for the Resto All-Stars, that 110-member crew who spent two weeks marching, sweeping, digging, raking, and going slightly mad over even the tiniest bit of MOOP left in Black Rock City. With the help of YOU and all the Burners like you who controlled your impact and packed out your trash, the Resto crew left our city spotless as ever.
Once again, I’m happy to say that Burning Man is the world’s largest Leave No Trace event. That’s a big feather in our collective cap, and we should all be proud of our achievement.
How does the BLM inspection work?
The Bureau of Land Management has developed a very strict site standard for Burning Man, and is now using similar techniques to measure the impact of other events on public lands. When I say the standard is “strict,” I mean that we must leave behind less than one square foot of MOOP per acre of land.
For our inspection, the BLM selects points throughout the city: some in the city grid, some in open playa, some in high-impact zones like the Man and Gate Road. At each point, we inspect a 1/10 acre plot and gather up every piece of MOOP we find. Each site’s MOOP is bagged and labeled, and the BLM will later tally exactly how much was found and of what type. On-site, each plot’s MOOP is measured against a 1/10 foot square. This lets us know immediately whether we’ve passed or not.
We’ve passed every year, and usually with flying colors.
Why was the inspection delayed?
This is actually the second year our inspection has occurred later than planned! While we always try to schedule it on or near the date our permit ends, sometimes that doesn’t work out.
The biggest inspection delay was in 2010, when a major rainstorm flooded the playa and prevented even the intrepid Resto All-Stars from finishing the work season. When the playa is wet, it’s totally impassable — and once it gets wet, it often stays that way all winter. That year, the inspection had to be postponed over half a year while the playa dried out, and we were all on tenterhooks until spring.
This year, the government shutdown fell just one day before our scheduled inspection date, and our BLM agents were temporarily furloughed. It was a rainy autumn this year as well, and we ended up rescheduling multiple times due to inclement weather. Luckily, the sun came out again and the playa dried enough to be passable.
By the time the inspection finally happened, the Playa Restoration crew had long since dispersed to various parts of the world. But 16 brave, dedicated and (dare I say it) heroic volunteers made their way back to the chilly, windy desert to conduct this inspection. It’s a long way to go for no more compensation than a hot lunch at Bruno’s; let’s give ‘em a hand for seeing this thing through to victory!
So is this the end of the MOOP blog?
Hey! I’m glad you asked! In fact, there are a couple of things I’ve been dying to tell you, some loose ends to tie up, and a few photos I really think you should see. We’ll have our much-delayed season wrap-up real, real soon. In the meantime, why not get your nostalgia fix and read all about this year’s Restoration season. It was a good one!
Until then, congratulations to all you Black Rock Citizens on another fantastically successful year and on all your Leave No Trace efforts, no matter how big or small! Resto loves ya, and so do I.