Burning Man, BLM and Happy Times

Did you know that Burning Man is the largest permitted event on Federal land?  As such, we are required by law (the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA) to evaluate our impacts on the environment.  The process is called an Environmental Assessment (EA) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), as the main steward of Federal Land, oversees it.

The EA Process

Burn Night 2011, Photo by Ales Prikryl

It took almost two years for the current EA to be researched and written. In December of 2010, we (together with BLM) asked our neighbors in Gerlach, Pershing County and Reno for their feedback, concerns and comments about the possibility of growing the Burning Man event. Our proposed action (the technical term for a proposal, in EA speak) requested approval for expanding the maximum population of BRC from 50,000 to 70,000 over a period of five years.

Along with a lot of support came some legitimate concerns. Using this feedback, the BLM, together with cooperating agencies including the Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, decided to closely analyze five areas of impact of the Burning Man Event: Carbon Footprint, Economic Impact, Traffic, Light Pollution/Night Skies, and Sound Pollution.

Research and Mitigations

Once the research team (from Aspen Environmental Group in San Francisco) knew what areas to focus on, they began creating technical reports under the supervision of the BLM scientists in Denver and Washington, D.C. The researchers started crunching numbers and consulting Burning Man about what we already do to mitigate the impacts of the event (“mitigate” is EA speak for lessening).

What they found was that Burning Man was already doing great work in these areas (hooray!) – but that there is always room for improvement. So, Chapter 6 of the EA is dedicated to additional steps we must take in order to grow the event successfully and sustainably.  The “Cliff Notes” to Chapter 6 Mitigations are listed below.

Highlights of the Chapter 6 Mitigations:

  • PREVENTING OIL DRIPS: BLM will conduct Oil Drip Surveys to determine if hydrocarbons from cars are increasing on the playa. (There’s a simple way we can all prevent hydrocarbon drips: Put a drip pan or piece of cardboard under your vehicle! And secure it from the wind!)
  • PORTA-POTTY AWARENESS: BRC will create a webpage so that participants are aware of how dangerous it is to improperly dispose of human waste. (Want to know how you can prevent human health disasters? Empty RV Waste only at the RV DUMP!)
  • INBOUND/EXODUS TRAFFIC SOLUTIONS: BRC will continue to work with NDOT and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe to create speed limits, signs, and flagging stations at key locations along the 447 and 34 routes, including Gerlach and Empire. (How can you help the traffic flow? Carpool! Plan for delays! Keep calm and drive safely! Prevent accidents!)
  • BRC will continue to clean up trash along the roads after the event and will provide increased education on the numerous locations where participants can properly dispose of waste.  (How can you lessen the trash impact on our neighbors? Tie down your load! Dump your waste responsibly and only in designated locations!)

While these mitigations sound simple, being “mostly there” isn’t good enough. Even small acts of noncompliance – one sneaky RV dumping on the roadside here, one stray bag of trash tossed in a ditch there – can negatively impact the future of the entire event.

We need you! We’re asking for your help in spreading the word and teaching each other about these issues because we need to make sure the Black Rock Desert will welcome us back year after year.  The only responsible approach to the increased interest in Burning Man is not to just grow the event, but to grow the event safely and sustainably. In order to ensure responsible and sustainable growth, we must all be prepared to comply with the mitigations outlined by the EA.

So let’s get creative: tell us how YOU will help spread the word about these important environmental issues!

 

BLM Issues BRC Permit for 2012 Event

PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Megan Miller
415-865-3800 x158

Black Rock City, LLC Gets Green Light from the BLM for 2012 Event

June 12, 2012, San Francisco, California. – Black Rock City, LLC, the organization that hosts the annual Burning Man event, is pleased to announce that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has authorized a Special Recreation Permit (SRP) for this year’s event, set to take place from August 27-September 3rd on the Black Rock Desert Playa, approximately 8.5 miles north of Gerlach, Nevada.

In addition to authorizing the one-year SRP, the BLM signed a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) on the related Environmental Assessment (EA) of Burning Man’s proposed actions for 2012-2016. Black Rock City, LLC has been working with BLM and Aspen Environmental Group for the past two years to complete this EA. The document suggests environmental mitigations based upon a gradual increase in population to 70,000 over the next five years.

For this year’s event, the BLM has set a maximum population of approximately 60,900 participants, or “citizens” of Black Rock City.

“As we celebrate this milestone, we’d like to thank our partners at the BLM and look forward to working with them towards securing a multi-year permit in the near future,” said Marian Goodell, Burning Man co-founder and Black Rock City LLC’s Director of Business and Communications.

Burning Man is the largest permitted event held on Federal land. For twenty years, the Black Rock Desert, north of Reno, Nevada, has played host to the annual art event, which began on a beach in San Francisco in 1986 and has grown to attract more than 55,000 participants annually, from every state of the Union and twenty-three countries worldwide. The BLM has issued a permit for Burning Man each year since 1992.

Curious about how this will impact further ticket distributions for this year’s Burn?  See this blog post.

MOOP MAP LIVE: BLM Inspection!

Hey there sports fans, MOOP maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire! The Hun here, ecstatic to report that Burning Man has PASSED its site inspection with the Bureau of Land Management. 2012 here we come!

The 2011 inspection crew

Yes, it was an exciting morning for the few remaining members of the DPW Playa Restoration team. Braving freezing winds and a muddy playa, the team gathered at the place once known as Center Camp. There we met our BLM referees, Roger Farschon and Cory Roegner of the BLM. Roger, now retired, has led this inspection many times before — in fact, he helped develop the method along with Will Roger. Cory’s in his second year as Outdoor Recreation Planner, which means he works with all the permitted events on the playa and gives them all the same type of inspection. Ours, of course, is the largest, but we’re held to the same strict standard of Leaving No Trace.

Cory holds up the square used to measure MOOP. Each 1/10 acre site must contain less MOOP than will fit into that square.

What does “Leave No Trace” mean to the BLM? It means that for every acre of land, we can’t leave behind more than one square foot of MOOP on average.

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MOOP MAP LIVE: All Done!

Hey there sports fans, MOOP maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire! The Hun here, reporting from Gerlach where the Playa Restoration season is coming to a nail-biting finish. The BLM is in town, and we’ve scheduled our site inspection for tomorrow morning. Will the weather hold? Will the playa be passable? Will Burning Man happen next year? It all comes down to tomorrow!

The last of the summer colors will fade within days.

Today, I’ve got the last scores from the 2011 MOOP Map. In Day Nine, your DPW Playa Restoration team swept through Center Camp, then began systematically cleaning some of Black Rock City’s busiest and MOOPiest spots. We covered the inner playa and the art sites, work camps and roads, and kept working until this Tuesday when the weather closed in, and we had to leave the desert behind.

Today’s score is a mixed bag, and the results may surprise you:

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MOOP MAP LIVE, Day 8: D.A. and the Origins of Restoration

Hey there sports fans, MOOP maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire! The Hun here, reporting from Gerlach where the weather has just dealt us a swift kick in the you-know-what. A cold, wet storm front has descended upon us, dusting the mountains with snow and deluging the desert with rain. The BLM inspection is planned for tomorrow! Will we make it, or will we be rained out again? The atmosphere is tense, and cold, and windy.

Denise Nuts keeps warm in the arms of a friendly dinosaur.

Luckily, I’ve got good news for you. In Day 8 of line sweeps, our DPW Playa Restoration team covered the final blocks of the city grid, leaving only Center Camp, the Man Base and the Temple of Transition to be MOOPed. Working from opposite ends, the two Line Sweeps teams met at 6:00 between Graduation and Hajj for a celebratory shade break. Then they turned their sights to the open playa, while the Scribes inspected Center Camp to carefully document visible hot spots.

We’ll have the results from Center Camp soon, but for now, here’s your big green city:

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MOOP MAP LIVE, Day 7: MOOP Treasure

Hey there sports fans, MOOP maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire! The Hun here, reporting from Gerlach where morale is high and the DPW Playa Restoration team is on track for a BIG WIN. Yes, it’s mighty MOOP-free out there folks. All of you at home who cleaned up your camps, pat yourselves on the back for helping your home team secure what looks to be a smashing victory.

Drink Water and Easygoin with 2011's biggest piece of MOOP: A length of wire cabling from beneath the Man. To be fair, it was left there on purpose, not abandoned.

In Day Seven of Line Sweeps, the front line picked up its pace. Lean and hungry for MOOP, they marched across 44 blocks — the entire area from 10:00 to 2:00 between Engagement, Funeral and Graduation, and part of Hajj!

44 blocks is a lot, almost as many as the lines covered in the early days of the season. But how did those blocks fare? Was the quick pace due to a lack of MOOP, or to a highly skilled group of MOOPers? Well, it looks like a little of both:

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MOOP MAP LIVE, Day 6: A Day in the Life

Hey there sports fans, MOOP maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire! The Hun here, reporting from Gerlach where time is running out for your Black Rock City home team. As I type this, the DPW Playa Restoration crew is pulling up all the last T-stakes and cones, our final points of reference in an increasingly featureless desert. There’s a storm coming, see, and whether we’re ready or not, our time on the playa is almost up.

Joey Jello and Booyah pull up the T-stake marking the corner of 9:00 and D.

But let’s look back to Day 6, when our intrepid Restoration MOOPers swept through 22 blocks — from 4:30 to 10:00 between Coming Out, Divorce and Engagement. How did the C-D-E camps fare? Here’s the report:

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MOOP MAP LIVE: The Art and Science of Leaving No Trace

Hey there sports fans, MOOP maniacs and line sweepers extraordinaire! The Hun here, reporting from Gerlach where, with just a few days left in the game, the DPW Playa Restoration team seems headed for a clear win. Tomorrow I’ll have new reports on the 2011 MOOP Map scores, but today we’re talking about art installations and how we clean ‘em up.

Charon by Peter Hudson. Photo by Arin Fishkin.

Almost all of the art you see in the open playa is placed precisely according to GPS coordinates. When the artist gets their placement, they agree to make sure their spot is MOOP-free when they leave. According to Playa Restoration’s ARTery representative Awesomesauce, the ARTery inspects each site before the artist leaves.

During Playa Restoration, special agent Bustin Dustin has the unique job of finding each art site and trying to figure out what happened there. Each site is different: The art may have burned, or used fuel or fireworks. It may have been made of metal, or plastic, or wood. It may have had a huge number of visitors throughout the week, and they can have interacted with the art in countless ways.

The Temple of Transition. Photo by Jim Hammer.

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