MOOP Map 2019: Leaving No Trace – Our Great Disappearing City (In High Resolution)

In the face of the Bureau of Land Management’s 2019 Environmental Impact Statement threatening the survival of the Burning Man event, the citizens of Black Rock City and the Playa Restoration rose to the challenge and proved that we, the Burning Man community, are the undisputed champions of Leaving No Trace in the world.

Endeavoring to hold ourselves to the highest standards, our community accomplished the cleanest and greenest-colored MOOP Map in its 14-year history, and achieved an extraordinary near-perfect score on the BLM’s Post-Event Site Inspection.

In other words: THANK YOU, BLACK ROCK CITY. We did it.

Here is the hi-resolution MOOP Map for 2019 as well as some educational information about our top MOOP issues.

About the MOOP Map

The MOOP Map is not a shaming mechanism. It’s an educational tool to measure our progress. This is how we learn, hold ourselves accountable, and improve. It’s how we have made it in the desert this far. It simply would not be possible to clean up over 3,600 acres (or 156 million square feet) of the Black Rock Desert, after the Burning Man event, to our high standards if it were not for the combined Leave No Trace endeavor of all our people.

The 2019 MOOP Map was compiled by the 175 people in the Playa Restoration All-Star Team. As we scoured the playa, we tracked any traces of Matter Out of Place that you may have missed, no matter how small, and cleaned it up. 

Using GPS technology and time stamped photos, the first draft MOOP Map 2019 was colored at the end of each day by the MOOP Scribes and Restoration Managers. Each and every data entry is painstakingly reviewed and verified to its location for the hi-res MOOP Map.

The MOOP Map colors approximate Resto’s speed and the degree of difficulty: 

  • Green means Resto is moving quickly and easily, which translates to clean. 
  • Yellow means Resto is moving at a moderate stop-and-go pace, translating into not terribly messy but not perfectly clean either.
  • Red means Resto is moving slowly and having a difficult time — essentially brought to a dead stop and sometimes on our hands and knees.
DA during the 2019 inspection. Photo by Moon Mandel.

Pre-Test Areas

New in 2019 was the Test Team. It’s something we’ve been experimenting with over the past few years and now have formalized into a new team within Playa Restoration.  This team goes out to random and targeted areas and tests them against the BLM inspection standard of one square foot per acre by driving a spike into the ground with a 40ft rope attached. The Test Team lines up along that rope and walks in a circle, picking up any MOOP within that 40ft radius.

In the 2019 MOOP Map, we have depicted the Pre-Test Areas that passed with a Green spiral icon and the fails with a Red spiral icon. The initial results were 172 Green to 34 Red. 

Checking for MOOP. Photo by Moon Mandel

2019 MOOP Trends

Streets, Intersection, and Plazas: The Rise of Red

Despite the most Green on the MOOP Map ever, there are still areas of concern, namely the busy streets and intersections which seem to be the majority of the Red this year. When Burning Man happens again, we will not only clean up our camps and art projects but focus our LNT effort on the streets and intersection towards our neighbors across the street and agree to meet in the middle. It could make for a nice social. 

Tent Stakes and Rebar

In 2019, the Playa Restoration found removed 101 instances of tent stakes and rebar from the ground surface. Of all the MOOP, tent stakes/rebar is the only MOOP Category that can cause harm and injury, especially for vehicles driving on the playa. As a citizen of Black Rock City, you and you alone are responsible for your impact on the playa. You must account for all of your tent stakes/rebar and pull them out of the ground. Under no circumstances are you supposed to hammer them deeper into the ground because that will only postpone the inevitable when they surface. There are many methods to pull stakes out of the ground. Our favorite is using a simple pair of vise-grips and twisting until the stakes essentially unscrew and pull out. If you are having difficulty, ask for help. If you absolutely can’t and there is no one around, then the last resort is to mark them obviously to warn others and signal for attention.

New MOOP Category: Micro-MOOP (n) — a miscellaneous classification of MOOP debris, described as shredded, broken, extremely small (under .5cm) and difficult to identify, especially in playa dust. Examples: glitter, broken glass, fabric bits, drilled plastic, hair, artificial grass fibers, wood debris, paint chips or any combination thereof. Sentence — “The little artificial grass fibers stuck to the ground and created a lot of micro-MOOP that needed to be shoveled up.” 


While Playa Restoration’s primary responsibility is to clean up the 156 million square feet of Black Rock City in time for the BLM Inspection, we also capture as much MOOP information as possible for educational purposes.

Here, we’ve broken down MOOP into its core classifications and ranked them in order of occurrences.   

Mixed MOOP on playa. Photo by Moon Mandel.


Rank MOOP Classification
1 Wood Debris
2 Plastic Debris
3 Tent Stake/Rebar
4 Metal Debris
5 Glass
6 Micro-MOOP
7 Cigarette Butts
8 Fuel Spill
9 Electronic Debris 
10 Burn Scar
11 Fireworks
12 Textile/Fabric
13 Black Water
14 Grey Water
15 Food Debris
16 Rug/Carpet Fiber
17 Glitter


About the Inspection 

On hands and knees during the inspection. Photo by Moon Mandel.

The BLM’s Post-Event Site Inspection took place on Saturday, October 5, 2019. We were present at the BLM’s MOOP analysis where 125 out of 126 test areas passed the 1sq.ft./acre debris standard with flying colors while only one small test area exceeded the allowable limit by a mere two inches!

It is paramount that we continue to uphold this standard and leave the lands clean, beautiful, and without a trace to ensure the environmental sustainability of the event, and to be good members of the Northern Nevada community.

Thank You

From the bottom of my burning heart, thank you to everyone on the Playa Restoration All-Star Team for all of your tireless efforts and dedication toward Leaving No Trace on the Black Rock Desert and for achieving an unprecedented near-perfect score victory during an unbelievably tumultuous year. I could not dream of a better outcome to celebrate my 20th year on Resto and 15th as manager, and I could not be prouder.

Playa Restoration All-Star team with BLM at the 2019 Post-Event Inspection. Photo by Moon Mandel.

Our work may not always be seen or understood, but know that the world will catch on in time. You are today’s and tomorrow’s leaders and the planet’s future is brighter with you in it. On behalf of the playa, Restoration, and the Department of Public Works, thank you for being here and for Leaving No Trace.

And thank you, everyone in the worldwide Burning Man/Black Rock City community, for your practice and support of the Leaving No Trace Principle. 

We may not always be perfect, but it is always a practice. And practice makes… well, you know. It is only together that we achieved this unprecedented victory. Leaving No Trace is just the beginning. Where we go from here is up to you. To be continued.

The Great Disappearing City from Profiles in Dust

About the author: DA


DA, wings on fire, crash-landed smack dab in the middle of Burning Man 97, ticket in hand, and never left. Three burns later, DA was adopted by the Department of Public Works' Clean-Up Crew and was awestruck at the transformative power of Leaving No Trace. DA grew to be leader, transforming the Clean-Up Crew into the Playa Restoration All-Star Team, and creating the first Moop Map in 2006 as a way to visualize the community's Leave No Trace effort. As a poster artist, DA has illustrated the launch of the Burning Man Theme for 2006 Hope and Fear: The Future, 2007 Green Man, 2008 American Dream, 2013 Cargo Cult, and 2015 Carnival of Mirrors. DA loves the Black Rock Desert and believes that if we, the community, continue to Leave No Trace, then together we can keep building and burning the world over.

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