Burning Man Passed its 2018 BLM Inspection

Burning Man successfully passed its post-event environmental inspection by the Bureau of Land Management in 2018, as it has every year since the standard was established in 2006. The Reno Gazette-Journal incorrectly reported Monday that Burning Man failed its environmental inspection.

The BLM standard allows for no more than one square foot of debris per acre (43,563 square feet) – that’s the equivalent of one record album cover distributed across land the size of a football field. Each year on inspection day, the BLM tests random locations within Black Rock City, and this year, for the first time ever, BLM selected twice as many locations to inspect. The inspection took place October 1. During a December 12 meeting in Reno, the BLM shared results stating that once again Burning Man had officially passed the test.

“The BLM conducted its post-event inspection twice in 2018, and Burning Man passed both times,” said Burning Man Environmental Restoration Manager “D.A.” Dominic Tinio. “Burning Man has achieved above 99.998% on the BLM post-event inspection in terms of debris removal every year since the standard was set in 2006 by the BLM.”

Black Rock City organizers and participants take great pride in ensuring the Black Rock Desert is returned to its natural state and free of MOOP, or Matter Out Of Place (our description of trash, debris, and anything not native to the environment) after every Burning Man event. Each year the Playa Restoration Team spends a month after the event ends inspecting the entire site and removing any remaining MOOP. The Playa Restoration team serves as the last line of defence in a city-wide effort to keep the Black Rock Desert beautiful, NOT to clean up after the event. They sweep the entire city to ensure that participants, staff, contractors, and law enforcement are all doing their part to uphold our Leaving No Trace principle. We have passed the BLM inspection for the past 12 years because of the efforts of the community, and we will continue to rely on those efforts in 2019 and beyond.

In addition to randomly-selected test-sites, the BLM also looks at six “Points of Interest” within Black Rock City. In October 2018, BLM inspection teams identified higher than expected amounts of debris at at The Man Base, the Temple, HeAT, the DPW Depot, United Site Services HQ, and the BLM’s own operations center. In December, BLM asked Burning Man to conduct a second, very limited inspection this coming Spring, which we plan to do. BLM has previously allowed Burning Man to return to the event site during the Spring to perform additional tests and MOOP sweeps in past years, and this possibility is included in the terms of our permit.

The BLM stated in mid December that official results will reflect that Burning Man passed the inspection.

“We’re proud to be the largest Leave No Trace event in the world,” Tinio said. “Leaving No Trace is one of our 10 Principles, and we will work with the BLM to ensure our ongoing success is accurately reported to the public.”

About the author: Burning Man Project

Burning Man Project

The official voice of the Burning Man organization, managed by Burning Man Project's Communications Team.

18 Comments on “Burning Man Passed its 2018 BLM Inspection

  • Ruth Talisman says:

    Yay Restoration Team! A huge thank you for a job well done.

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  • G0 says:

    Thank you DA and Playa Resto! Thank you citizens!

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  • Jason1969 says:

    Hells yeah!

    So how did the RGJ get it so wrong?

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  • Weedlord Bonerhitler says:

    “In October 2018, however, BLM inspection teams identified higher than expected amounts of debris at at The Man Base, the Temple, HeAT, the DPW Depot, United Site Services HQ, and the BLM’s own operations center. In December, BLM asked Burning Man to conduct a second, very limited inspection this coming Spring, which we plan to do.”

    So… they DID fail the inspection, but the legalese in their contract let’s them not call it a failure, and get a Mulligan in the Spring?

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    • Glucose says:

      No, I interpret it to mean that they found higher than expected levels – but still lower than the limits required by the BLM.

      IE, lower than required by the BLM, but still enough to act as a diagnostic test for Resto to determine if they could have done even better(?)

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      • AZ Daisy says:

        No, the amount found was higher than the accepted BLM standards. The BLM doesn’t report anything less than one square foot per acre. BM Org “didn’t expect” them to be higher than the BLM standard. The article was deliberately misleading in that regard.

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    • AZ Daisy says:

      Bingo. The BLM didn’t ‘ask’ the Org to do a second inspection. BLM told them BLM would be doing a second inspection and the Org is being given a second chance to de-moop. “When” the Org passes, an official pass “will” be given.
      This whole article is misleading and full of double talk. The fact that they also called the Reno Gazette article “poor reporting” is offensive and disturbing.
      Truly disgraceful.

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      • Oh okay says:

        Very turly biggly very awful for sure. Poor sad Reno Gazzette. Big bad burning man being scary liberal tears and being very dirty. You believe me ok? Super biggly bad and awful of the largest leave no trace event in the world.

        Yeah no. The BLM and many Reno locals are just, against burning man. This whole thing is redick. I’ve seen off season asshats setting off fireworks, leaving fire pits, oil drippings, throwing trash around without a care. Does the BLM ride their asses? Yeah not so much.
        We do a great job of leaving no trace. BLM has a history of setting up dramas that create a reason for them to charge more.
        So yeah.


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      • shitbird says:

        I think you need to learn how to read. WE PASSED THE INSPECTION. TWICE.

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  • werdsmythe says:

    “Defence” – punny!

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  • Mark McCormack says:

    I wonder if BLM conducts such test at the various other events that take place on playa like surfaces I.E. the rocket contest thing that takes place, Bonneville salt flats, TV commercials, and whatever other multi person / group events take place????

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  • Epic says:

    Obviously we’re all very thankful for the work done by D.A. and the Resto team, but I feel like we’re not getting the whole story here.

    Can anyone upload/link to/provide definitive proof of a pass/fail score? Otherwise it’s just word of mouth. RGJ says we failed. BM says we passed. Who am I supposed to believe?

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    • AZ Daisy says:

      I’d appreciate seeing that too. It’s not an unreasonable amount of information to provide, and it would give the clarity needed for the incident to have complete transparency and resolution.

      This article is misleading in several ways. For instance, it claims to have passed inspection twice, but then states that there’s only been one inspection where increased areas were inspected. That’s not passing two inspections. It’s passing one inspection that was larger than anticipated.

      While it may or may not be true that the BLM sets higher standards for Burning Man, the Org agrees to follow those standards. If BM org doesn’t meet those standards, we as the Burning Man community should be aware of that, so we can properly support the changes that will be made in the future.

      Blaming the media, presenting muddled information and using other groups lower standards as a justification for not meeting ours is unhelpful. Let’s be open. Let’s be honest. Let’s understand, acknowledge and solve this problem.

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      • MsMarvelous says:

        You sir or madam, are a very reasonable human and I support this request for the score and information on how the community can support and help.

        Dear BM Org: Transparency is key, and youve done a great job at supporting the claims with facts, but as you can see there’s still some confusion. First off thank you for even responding to this article in the first place. Thank you for the work you do year round to ensure Burning Man is truly a unique place with high standards and shared values. We’d like just a bit more information please and then you’ll see, your community is here to support.

        Also… FYI to everyone: For the first year ever I spent a solid week in Reno before going to BM, and I kid you not, the majority of the locals I talked to never heard of Burning Man. Some people complain when it effects them. Some people have vendettas. But we shouldn’t generalize. Even the local police I talked to who should have all info about the happenings in their local area were under the impression that BM we no more than a giant concert, which I took great pride in dispelling and sharing our values and standards and experiential offerings. Everyone I’ve spoken to who had no understanding of it always left with something they could relate to and something that intrigued them. But talk is just talk. It’s the reason we say “Be here now.” No one can fully understand everyone else’s experiences. So BM, if you need extra hands for restoration I’m here. I’m not judging, just ready to support. Just as I assume many of the BM Family is. And then we’ll see for ourselves what needs to be done and how to support this wonderful event. Thank you.

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  • Chef Juke says:

    Hey all,

    A few things to consider.

    The article asserts that Burning Man did not pass it’s inspection, however none of the quotes from the BLM representative actually says that. They are, for the most part, generic statements.

    The article says in the beginning that Burning Man was notified, but later on, the article states that the BLM spokesperson “did not immediately know when the BLM first notified Burning Man organizers of their sub-par job.”

    Burning man says, fairly specifically, when and where they were told they passed two inspections.

    Neither Burning Man nor the article outlines what form a ‘passed inspection’ takes.

    The article stated that “Burning Man organizers did not respond to questions about the failed inspection on Friday”.

    This raises a question for me. Friday was the day before a long holiday weekend. Burning Man responded Monday but that was after the article was published first thing Monday Morning. First and foremost in my mind, why was the issue so urgent that it needed to be published before a reasonable attempt to get a response from Burning Man? Contrary to what’s often assumed, many newspaper articles are written over a long period of time, not just the day or two before publication. Why did this one need to go out Xmas eve morning and not give more than one workday to get a response from BMAN?

    Finally, I’m a bit concerned that the article been updated with more information in the 4 days since it was originally published. Seems to me if you were a newspaper and you reported a story, and one of the groups involved sent a strong rebuttal to the story, it would be in your interest to gather some additional facts.

    Based on all of the above, I agree with some that the original story is pretty flawed, even if the underlying premise turns out to be correct, but only time and more info will tell that for sure.

    Oh, and I was under the impression (but can’t swear to it) that the amount of debris per acre requirement was ON AVERAGE for the entire event, not for any specific spot/acre. If I am correct in that, then a FAIL would require that the average for the entire closure zone would need to be higher than the 1 square foot per acre, not just some areas.

    As always, Your Mileage May Vary.

    -Chef Juke

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    • Tinker says:

      It’s the average of all inspection areas, not the entire event, but also not just a single inspection area. And as Posted, the number of inspection areas was increased this year, and out of that increased set, a few had higher amounts than desired, but the average of the inspected points still passed. The article indicates that the Spring cleanup will simply focus on areas with higher than expected amounts with a reinspection, as permitted by the stipulations, but that the official ‘pass’ is already recorded.

      As linked by the Org website (https://burningman.org/network/about-us/public-documents/ ), The 2018 BLM stipulation documentation states:

      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 1 square foot per acre from identified inspection areas.

      As part of bullet 55:

      55. BRC shall make personnel available immediately after the end of the post-event cleanup period, and if deemed appropriate by the BLM, during the spring following the event, to inspect the site with the BLM to determine any latent adverse impacts, such as pit depressions, bumps, depressions from roadways, ruts from vehicular traffic, or surfacing buried materials, to ensure that the site is returned to pre-event condition. 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 1 square foot per acre from identified inspection areas. BRC may make a written request for an extension of time for the completion of the cleanup if weather or some other catastrophic event interferes with access to the site for cleanup purposes. The BLM authorized officer may consider such a request. If cleanup studies indicate the Post-Event Cleanup Standard has been or is likely to be exceeded, the permit will be suspended until the site has been cleaned up to a level not to exceed 50% of the standard and the Operations Plan includes reasonable measures to assure that the Post-Event Cleanup Standard will not be exceeded during the life of the permit.

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  • Captain Shea says:

    No matter what anyone Says (or reports) we just Know there is No Way we’d let our (arguably #1 Core principle) slide & risk losing our Home. Not a chance! I know burners who would lick the playa clean if necessary! lol We ARE the Leave No Trace global community… not just some festival of Moop happening in every town.
    *Big Hugs, Cheers & Thanks to the Team* It was a hell of a year!

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