It’s Been a Busy Year for Fly Ranch, and We’re Just Getting Started

2018 has been a busy time at Fly Ranch, Burning Man Project’s 3,800-acre property purchased in 2016. The project has transitioned from theoretical questions of “how might we” to the first of many practical small-scale experiments. The community has begun joining us on the property to explore the space, share ideas, and participate in the first of some important projects. Want to know all the details of how to participate and what this year will bring to this special little nook of Northern Nevada? Well, you’re in luck.

Earlier this month, we published a 12-month Fly Ranch Roadmap on the Fly Ranch website. If you’re curious about the project, this is a one-stop shop for the latest on Fly Ranch. This plan, like the whole project, is a work in progress and the only guarantee is that some things will inevitably change. However, we think this is a good place to start and are excited to share our thoughts with you.

We also thought it’d be helpful to give some highlights of what is already underway at Fly Ranch.

Environmental Study

Our wonderful resident botanist, Scirpus, is wrapping up her year of environmental baseline study at Fly Ranch as part of the Burning Man Fellowship program. 

(Photo by Lisa Beers)

We wanted to spend a full cycle of all 4 seasons watching and observing the land before we started taking action like developing trails or opening access to the property. Scirpus’ time on the property has been incredibly fruitful and enlightening: in the last year, she has completed a list of all plants and animals observed on the property, an interactive map of all human-made objects, a map of botanical species, including a graph of those that are invasive, an analysis of weather data and sun activity, documentation of hundreds of photographs of wildlife, and a whole lot more.

A Map of Invasive Species Percentages by Lisa Beers

She’s also making her way through a 5-part blog series about the experience of Fly Ranch through the senses. Scirpus’ incredible work is giving a voice to the land and helping us all come to understand what areas of the property are most sensitive and which environmental factors need to be considered as we move forward with the project.

Nature Walks

Starting at the beginning of April, the local conservation group Friends of Black Rock-High Rock began coordinating publicly available nature walks each weekend through the northern end of the property. With their organizational mission to support and promote appreciation of and experiences in the Black Rock Desert area, Friends is the perfect partner to be hosting these walks.

(Photo by Zac Cirivello)

The walks are offered in small groups of 20 people and there are currently 4 available each weekend. As more guides get trained and more folks (that’s you!) volunteer to get involved, we’re hoping to scale to 10 walks a week before the year’s end. In the interest of Radical Inclusion, these walks are first-come, first-served and available for a sliding scale donation. For reasons of Immediacy and promoting direct immersive experiences with the land and others on the walks, these are device-free experiences. Consider it an opportunity to disconnect from the digital and reconnect with the natural. You can sign up for a walk on the Friends’ reservation page.

Fly Restoration Weekends

As we began mapping the human-made artifacts throughout the property, one thing became apparent: there’s a lot of random stuff on Fly, and we need to begin cleaning it up. Over the course of two weekends in April, we partnered with Burners Without Borders to host a pair of Fly Ranch Restoration weekends. 

(Photo Courtesy of Christopher Breedlove)

Supported with tools and guidance from Playa Restoration’s own chief MOOP master DA, BWB hosted over 75 volunteers to come in, camp out, and clean up some of the identified debris hotspots on the property.

These weekends were an awesome prototype for future public work weekends on Fly Ranch and we made some amazing progress cleaning up the waste, recycling, and metal scrap around the Farmhouse portion of the property. These volunteers also repurposed the found materials to build our first composting box and a bridge that is needed to cross a stream during the Nature Walks. If you’d like to get involved in future Restoration Weekends, sign up for our newsletter or the BWB Fly Ranch Volunteers group.

(Photo by Zac Cirivello)

Gerlach School Field Trip

The Friends of Black Rock-High Rock and Nevada Outdoor School partnered together to offer the kids of the Gerlach School a unique opportunity to engage in some citizen science at Fly Ranch last month. With lessons in geology, botany, and hydrology, the Gerlach School student’s had a full day of learning about a unique ecosystem in their own backyard. This trip can hopefully serve as a model for future trips with students from throughout Northern Nevada and beyond.

(Photo Courtesy of Friends of Black Rock-High Rock)

So… Now What?

As busy as the past few weeks have been for Fly Ranch, we’re really just getting started. The programs that have already begun we hope to see scale and include more people who are interested in getting involved with the project. We’re hoping to expand on these activities with more offerings, as well. These include working with the Rangers to develop a Fly Ranch Guardians program that enables the community to volunteer and spend 1 – 3 nights at a time on site, helping monitor and preserve the natural beauty of the wetlands area. We’re welcoming an Energy Fellow to join our team as part of a partnership with Black Rock Labs and the Environmental Defence Fund to begin scoping the solar, wind, and geothermal renewable energy potential of the site. We’re also going to begin prototyping small events and open camping as early as this upcoming summer. Want to plug in and get involved as these projects become a reality? Go ahead and sign up for our newsletter where we announce new projects and invite the community to participate in these early phase experiments. Also… you really should read the Fly Ranch Roadmap.

So, here’s to the rest of the year. And to the next 99.

(Photo by Growl)

Like the images here and want to see more as the project develops? Check out our Fly Ranch instagram!

About the author: Zac Cirivello

Zac Cirivello

Zac has been managing teams in Black Rock City since 2010. He spent three years as a part of Burning Man’s Communications team developing the organization’s voice as a nonprofit and driving strategy behind key communications initiatives. He studied Environmental Science and spent a decade producing events and festivals focused on arts, community development, sustainability, and food. As Operations Manager for Fly Ranch, Zac oversees communications, community engagement, affiliations and site operations for the project.

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