We Did It! 2019 BLM Inspection Reveals Near Perfect Score & Greenest MOOP Map to Date

On October 5, the Playa Restoration Team held victory in the palm of its hands at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) post-event site inspection. The team overcame significant weather setbacks and handled even tougher test standards to attain the best inspection results it has ever achieved.

Ten days later, BLM and statisticians from the Desert Research Institute (DRI) used a new digital pixel-count method to confirm an unprecedented near-perfect score.

The Playa Restoration Team (a.k.a Resto) also confirmed the MOOP Map was the greenest to date — thanks to the Leave No Trace efforts by YOU, the Black Rock City citizens who really stepped up to the plate this year!

The final inspection results will not be official until BLM releases the Post Event Site Inspection Report in the new year, but Playa Restoration Manager Dominic “DA” Tinio says the preliminary results reveal a much-needed win for Resto and the community.

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“In my 20-year career here, this is without a doubt the best results I’ve ever seen. With all of the pressure surrounding the BLM’s Environmental Impact Statement and the increased difficulty of the inspection, we needed a decisive victory and we got it,” DA says.

“I am so proud of the Playa Restoration All-Star Team who stayed behind to fight through an extraordinarily difficult season to deliver our biggest win ever. And I am so proud of the 80,000 Burning Man participants who really rallied to the cause this year and stepped up their Leave No Trace effort overall — it showed.”

In July 2019, on the back of its Environmental Impact Statement, the BLM added a new inspection standard requiring that no more than 10 percent of the 120 randomly selected inspection test sites could exceed the designated limit. A successful test site was based on finding less than a palmful of MOOP in a 37.7 foot radius area. (See this previous post for more detailed maths.)

To prepare for the inspection, a new Resto team known as “The Test Team” was established to replicate the BLM Inspection method using the “rule of palm” all day, every day during the cleanup. But the Test Team continued to find Resto just short of success — a few wood chips here, a scrap of toilet paper there, pushing them over the line.

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“It’s a game of inches. We were in good fighting shape, but it wasn’t down to 10 percent yet,” says DA, whose 20-year dedication to Black Rock City’s ‘Leaving No Trace’ efforts was tested like never before.

During the playa restoration season, he and his team struggled with rain and high winds that carved days out of their schedule and delayed line sweeps — the inch-by-inch cleanup of the 156 million square foot Burning Man event site.

These delays extended the restoration season and led to dwindling volunteer numbers, rising fatigue and flagging morale. Rain also meant playing a game of hide and seek when finding Matter Out of Place (MOOP).

“The post-event weather was challenging,” says Field Operations Manager Weldboy. “The playa does what it wants — dust storms, rain, freezing temperatures. We also had a hailstorm! It’s always a game of ‘now you see it, now you don’t with MOOP. Our best bet was to cover Black Rock City as many times as possible.”

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After multiple passes of the entire event site, the MOOP Map had turned a splendid shade of green when heavy rains struck five days before inspection, which was originally scheduled for October 4. Rain packs the playa dust down while MOOP works its way up. The MOOP Map, which had been mostly green, now began to show red dots.

Three days of hustle later, the team finally pulled the pin — or, more specifically, the Golden T-stake from the playa.

The Golden T-stake, at 5:30 Esplanade in front of MOOP Map HQ, is the last standing street location marker in Black Rock City. (Not to be confused with the Golden Spike marking the city’s center.) Once we pull the Golden T-Stake, Black Rock City is gone.

At this year’s Golden T-Stake ceremony, DA honored Weldboy for his heroic efforts in co-leading the team while also overcoming his own private battle with cancer.

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DA says everyone was in good spirits as they parted ways after a brief celebratory drink at the Gerlach Saloon and headed to bed for an early inspection start the next morning. “We’re going to kill this tomorrow,” DA remembers thinking.

But the weather had other plans. Rain bucketed down twice during the night, forcing an inspection postponement and leaving no further opportunity to line sweep for last-minute “peekaboo” MOOP before the rescheduled inspection on October 5.

On October 5, 88 Resto members worked alongside BLM representatives in 11 teams to undertake the testing. DA says he remained cautiously optimistic when team after team returned with excited faces and either empty handed or near-empty handed.

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“There was this one kid on his second year on Resto. He comes in and he says: ‘You wanna know what I think? I think we killed this test!’  I really appreciated that he could have the bravado that I couldn’t have at that moment,” DA says.

On October 15, that bravado was vindicated when DA and BLM representatives gathered at BLM offices to measure the results. They were accompanied by DRI statisticians who have been helping BLM and Burning Man Project move to a new digital measuring system for the inspection. They confirmed the Black Rock City site had passed all but one of the 120 test sites.

Black Rock City has passed every inspection since 1999, when the BLM began requiring such inspections as a condition of future event permits on the playa.

Stay tuned for the release of the final high-res MOOP Map in the new year

Top photo: MOOP Map Scribe, Your Sister (photo by Moon)

About the author: Jane Lyons

Jane Lyons (a.k.a Lioness) believes it takes a special kind of crazy to drive the foundation years of a Regional Burn, and she classes herself among those crazy dreamers and (over)doers who are sweating it out around the Regional Burn globe. After her first Nevada Burn in 2009, Jane spent five years knee-deep in the development of Australia's Burning Seed and its community. She built and managed Seed's Communications Team for many years, helped kickstart Melbourne Decompression and ran a range of other local events. But her Burner communities and collaborations stretch beyond the confines of her country. She helped build Temple of Transition in 2011; has worked on other big art projects on and off playa (including the Temple for Christchurch); and has run theme camps and built art at Nowhere, Kiwiburn, Burning Seed and Italian Burning Weekend. She now spends her time supporting Burning Man's Communications Team.

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