Since 2004, it has been the greatest honor of my life to be the Black Rock City community’s Playa Restoration Manager, in charge of making sure that we leave our home on the public lands of the Black Rock Desert clean and beautiful and without a trace. What you all do is amazing! You and all of your wonderous gifts, your tireless efforts and unquantifiable goodness, make this world a better place.
By all means, keep doing what you do, and keep practicing the importance of leaving no trace. Despite our tremendous population growth over the years, Burning Man continues to be the largest practicing Leave No Trace event in the world. Like a mirage, we are the “Great Disappearing City Trick!” My team, the Playa Restoration All-Star Team, is proud to support your Leave No Trace effort and together we will continue to build and burn wherever we go, the world over.
The Leave No Trace Principle
The Burning Man community respects the environment. We are committed to leaving no physical trace of our activities wherever we gather. We clean up after ourselves and endeavor, whenever possible, to leave such places in a better state than when we found them.
Matter Out of Place (MOOP) Defined
In Burning Man culture there is a word that we’ve coined, “MOOP”, an acronym for Matter Out Of Place, which means anything and everything that is not native to the immediate environment. Our environment, our home, is the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, affectionately known as “The Playa” which means simply that MOOP is everything. Leave Nothing. Leave No Trace.
moop 1. (noun) Acronym for Matter Out Of Place, meaning anything or any impact not native to the immediate environment, especially as it applies to the citizens of Black Rock City and the greater Burning Man community’s founding Leave No Trace principle. Some examples are cigarette butts, trash, bottles, fireworks, glow sticks, bottle caps, but can also be in the form of broken debris such as wood, plastic, metal, glass, and plants. Moop can also be a condition not natural to the environment such as burn scars, fuel spills, grey/black water spills, and dunes. Sentence: “Your camp sure did leave a whole lot of moop on the playa!”
moop 2. (verb) To pick up matter out of place. Sentence: “Our camp mooped from one end of the block to the other!”
moop 3. (verb) To drop matter out of place. Sentence: “She mooped her cell phone somewhere on the playa and can’t find it.”
Understanding the BLM Site Inspection of Black Rock City
The BLM Site Inspection, also known as the Post Event Inspection (PEI), is required following each Burning Man event per the following stipulation:
“Inspections of the event site, in the fall post event, will be coordinated by the BLM using randomly placed transects on the site and a measurable cleaning standard. The inspecting party will intensively collect debris found on the ground within each transect. A follow-up spring inspection will be conducted only when deemed necessary by the BLM. The Post Event Cleanup Standard shall be the average total surface area of debris collected from either the fall or spring transects will not exceed the equivalent of an average of one (1) square foot per acre from identified inspection areas.”
The BLM Site Inspection Standard for Allowable MOOP states that the average area is not to exceed one square foot per acre (1sq. ft/ac).
One acre is 43,560 sq. ft.
So, translating an acre into square feet, the allowable MOOP standard is 1sq. ft. for every 43,560 sq. ft. Think about the scale of that versus the size of a square foot!
Perhaps the simplest way to visualize an acre is to imagine a football field without the end zones. To visualize one square foot you need only imagine something like a 12-inch vinyl record album cover. So essentially, if you were on a football field consolidating every tiny bit of MOOP and the total amount was bigger than an album cover–then you would be over the limit.
Black Rock City itself is 3,603 square acres or 156 million square feet. That’s A LOT of square feet. It’s a staggering number. That’s why the Burning Man community’s Leave No Trace effort is so important. It’s up to all of us.
If you’re thinking that an average of 1sq. ft./ac. is not a lot of MOOP for the amount of territory that Black Rock City occupies then you would be right. The BLM Site Inspection for Burning Man is a strict and tight standard to which no other event held on the Black Rock Desert or any other public land is subjected to and Burning Man is proud to have passed for all of these years since its inception in 1999 when the population was still only 23,000 participants.
Results of the 2017 Bureau of Land Management’s Site Inspection Test
Although still within the passing standards of the BLM Site Inspection, the 2016 results reported a rising trend for five consecutive years at .77 sq. ft/ac of MOOP, putting it in the danger zone of exceeding the allowable standard of 1sq. ft/ac.
In 2017 MOOP dramatically improved, falling from .77 sq. ft/ac to .35 sq. ft/ac! That’s more than a 50% improvement!
Way to go Black Rock City! What’s it going to be for 2018? Stay tuned to the MOOP MAP 2018 blog as the Playa Restoration All-Star Team gets ready to take the field and root for the home team as we go head to head with the BLM Site Inspection 2018 on Monday, October 1st!