November 16th, 2013  |  Filed under Environment

Burning Man passes its site inspection. 2014 is a GO!

November 16th, 2013  |  Filed under Environment

HURRAH! It’s a red-letter day for all you MOOP maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire: Our Leave No Trace efforts have made it possible for Burning Man to happen again in 2014.

Your inspection team. Photo by Bubblegique.

Your inspection team. Photo by Bubblegique.

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.

MOOPing a BLM inspection point. Photo by Bubblegique.

MOOPing a BLM inspection point. Photo by Bubblegique.

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.

Collecting the bags with each inspection point's MOOP. Photo by Bubblegique.

Collecting the bags with each inspection point’s MOOP. Photo by Bubblegique.

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!

Gil and Bobtuse. You know it's cold when two Canadians are all bundled up. Photo by Bubblegique.

Gil and Bobtuse. You know it’s cold when the Canadians are all bundled up! Photo by Bubblegique.

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.

13 Responses to “Burning Man passes its site inspection. 2014 is a GO!”

  1. Busload Redux Says:

    This makes me happy. A huge and heartfelt thank you to the Playa Restoration Team. x

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  2. Gerald Fleischmann Says:

    Looks like some very nice work by ‘most all of us, and especially those dedicated souls who stayed to make sure we all looked good to BLM eyes.

    You gave us a glimpse at the real time MOOP Map, but when can we see it in detail?

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  3. The Hun Says:

    Thank YOU Busload and Gerald!

    Gerald, it usually takes us SEVERAL weeks to cross-check all the data and create a MOOP Map that we’re confident is super accurate. When it’s ready, we’ll post it on the Burning Man site for all to examine ;)

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  4. Dave LeClair Says:

    “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.”

    Theme for 2014: Feather Caps.

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  5. Eric the Red Says:

    Once again, congratulations on a job well done. I was in Reno during the site inspection and, had there not been an unforeseen variance in my work schedule, I would have been more than happy to buy all of you a drink at your locale of choice in Gerlach!

    Thank you to all who go above and beyond… we owe you huge and then some :-)

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  6. The Hun Says:


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  7. The Hun Says:

    Eric, the sentiment is fully appreciated!

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  8. Rainmaker Says:

    Thank you all for your efforts….this past year was my first burn, and im trying, in small and large ways, to sprinkle my home base (nyc) with the care and selflessness i felt in BRC…
    DPW Playa Restoration: your work has been OBSERVED

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  9. Preston Says:

    Once upon a time I would have said it was bullshit for the BLM to hold BM to a standard so high above the average public land user. I would have said they were abusing BM’s obvious need and desire to return to roughly the same area every year.

    Now I think it’s good that BM is setting the standard for litter control, in perhaps the most immediate examble of how the culture of BM is spreading out into the default world.

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    Great job! Congratulations!

    Greetings and success with the blog!


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