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!
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.
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.
Now, the BLM can’t inspect the entire playa, so they take random samples. They choose 64 sites from throughout Black Rock City, each of which is 1/10 of an acre.
The group then breaks into teams, with each team assigned several sites. They inspect each site by walking in a circle around a center point, holding a 33-foot cord, and picking up every piece of MOOP within that circle.
The MOOP goes into a bag, to be measured later.
The best thing about doing this inspection? Realizing that we really, truly did clean the playa. Bag after bag comes back nearly empty.
And hey, remember that black spot we were talking about last week? It just happened to be one of the randomly-selected sites that the BLM inspected. Thanks to the efforts of the Restoration crew, here’s what was left there:
Cory and Roger could see immediately that Burning Man had passed its inspection with flying colors. The crew was ecstatic. Before heading out in a hundred different directions, we shared our mutual respect one last time:
Leave No Trace and Burning Man
As far as the Bureau of Land Management is concerned, Burning Man does a much better job of cleaning up after itself than many other events. And that’s true — but even while we strive to comply with the BLM’s requirements, we are always trying to do better.
The truth is, our presence on the playa does leave a trace. Tire tracks, water spots, any MOOP we happen to miss. Ravens come from miles around to scavenge, and Gate Road is easily visible for years after each use.
Over time, though — just a few years without Burning Man — all that would disappear. That’s the idea: When we’re gone, it should go away. We do our best to remove any sort of trace that would last over a long period, and that doesn’t just include MOOP.
For example: When cars drive on the playa, it breaks up the surface and creates dust. After wind storms, that dust settles in dunes that alter the naturally smooth playa surface. Those dunes can cover and hide litter, and they can also grow over time, potentially becoming semi-permanent features. I can personally vouch that the number of dunes in the Black Rock Desert has grown significantly in the past five years.
That’s why we have Bobtuse, Dune Buster. Here’s what Bobtuse does:
Bobtuse and his dune-busting drag aren’t the only trick we use to restore the playa, but they’re indicative of the lengths we go to. As a community and as an organization, Burning Man strives to not just be Good Enough. Whenever possible, we try to Do It Right. And if anything symbolizes Doing It Right, it’s DPW Playa Restoration.
How will you Do It Right next year?
Now, this reporter is headed back to Reno to recuperate from an incredible year. It’s all over, folks! See you again real soon. This is The Hun, signing off.