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Burning Man Begins Massive Cleanup After Heavy Rain Soils Campgrounds


Burning Man attendees who abandoned their tents, vehicles and trash at the site after a mass exodus from the remote Nevada desert this week began returning to the site on Wednesday to begin the Herculean task of cleanup, organizers said. .

The annual week-long clean-up effort following the festival may be more difficult this year after torrential rains blanketed the site and campgrounds in ankle-deep mud and led some attendees to abandon belongings. they had brought with them to the place known as Black Rock City. .

Festival-goers who left early due to the storm are “returning to the event site today through Saturday to dismantle their projects, demolish their camps and remove their belongings,” the Burning Man Project said in a statement. announcement Wednesday evening.

A crew will also begin removing litter from highways leading to the site on Friday, organizers said. The event takes place in a vast expanse of desert called “la playa”.

A special recreation permit that allows the festival to take place in the desert requires organizers “to return the beach to its natural state,” the Nevada Bureau of Land Management said Thursday.

“After the exodus, the Burning Man team has three weeks to search the entire event area and collect all items and trash,” spokeswoman Rita Henderson said in a statement. “In addition, they are cleaning along the county roads leading to and from the event.”

During the first week of October, the office and organizers will inspect points around the area to determine if the cleanup efforts were acceptable, she said, adding that if the office deems the cleanup not is not acceptable, he will schedule time with the organizers to address the issues.

The task of cleaning up the site could be tougher this year after some attendees fled without coming to their senses ahead of a mass exodus on Monday after a weekend of heavy rains flooded roads and closed access to the entrance main event, leaving attendees in a state of virtual confinement. A 32-year-old man, Leon Reece of Truckee, Calif., died Friday during the rainy festival. Although the cause and circumstances of his death are still unresolved, drug poisoning is suspected, the Washoe County Regional Medical Examiner’s Office said in a statement this week.

Pershing County Sheriff Jerry Allen said Monday that while “large amounts of goods and trash are strewn from the festival to Reno and beyond” every year, this year “is a little different in that there are many vehicles scattered all over the beach for several miles. »

“Some attendees were unwilling to wait or take the beaten path to attempt to exit the desert and had to abandon their vehicles and personal belongings where their vehicle stopped,” Allen wrote in a statement.

Burning Man organizers said Wednesday that “all but one of the vehicles that were stuck in the mud in the Burning Man closure area have been released.”

Environmental impact

The environmental effects of Burning Man on Black Rock Desert Beach and its greenhouse gas emissions have been of concern to environmental groups for years. Climate change activists blocked the entrance to Burning Man, claiming festival organizers were ‘whitewashing’ the event.

The festival’s carbon footprint is estimated at 100,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, according to its sustainability roadmap. That’s equivalent to emissions from electricity use in more than 19,000 homes for a year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s emissions calculator.

The Bureau of Land Management capped festival attendance at 80,000 under the festival’s most recent permit in 2019 to limit noise, air and light pollution and other damage to species.

Patrick Donnelly, director of the Center for Great Basin Biological Diversity, said he had seen social media posts showing native plants like iodine and salt scrub being trampled and crossed as people fled the beach from the Black Rock Desert. He was also concerned that the festival traffic would disturb the rare species of gill pods that live on the beach, hatch when it rains and feed migrating birds.

After previous Burning Man events, a study found that some species had 50% fewer eggs in certain parts of the playa used for the festival.

But the festival only takes up about 5-10% of the beach, Donnelly said, so the impacts aren’t widespread.

Donnelly said he wasn’t particularly concerned about litter festival attendees being left behind. He said he scoured the beach about two weeks after last year’s Burning Man, looking for litter and other evidence of its impact.

“I was looking for the evidence and I couldn’t find it. I think they have a pretty good track record of cleaning up after themselves and delivering on the promises they made to BLM. Hopefully they keep doing that and cleaning it all up,” Donnelly said.

Donnelly said he thought Burning Man was a target of criticism because of its wealthy attendees and “brother tech” culture, but added that “no one has a holiday without impact.” He hopes the new attention to the Black Rock Desert Beach will spark more interest in conservation efforts.

“Most of the outrage about this is coming from people wanting to take on Burning Man, but it would be nice if some of that was general enthusiasm for protecting public lands in Nevada,” said Donnelly, adding that he sees mining as a greater danger. on Nevada public lands.

“Leave no trace”

As he prepared to pack his bags and leavee In the area, longtime Burning Man presenter Terry Gault said it was “not surprising to hear there was some rubbish left behind”.

Gault said that wasn’t the case near his camp, which was surrounded by “burner veterans.”

“So for those who left trash behind, it’s not real burners,” he said. “They probably shouldn’t be here anyway.”

In their statement, festival organizers reminded attendees that “leaving no trace” after their departure is a fundamental principle of the community.

“All participants should pack up everything they have brought and clean their camp space before leaving town,” the statement read.

Dr Brad McKay, an author who said this was his sixth appearance at the festival, said the heavy rains were “unprecedented” and that “many camps in attendance were simply not prepared for this to happen.” produce. There was a lot of chaos, a lot of confusion and a lot of people trying to survive very quickly under very adverse conditions.

“A few people started to panic and got into their vehicles and then got stuck in the mud and couldn’t get out at all and had to abandon their vehicles,” he said.

McKay said he was worried about the bikes, tents and other trash left behind in the area where all the thick mud made it hard to see the trash left behind.

“We did the best job possible,” he said, referring to his 22-person camp. But others left hastily.

“It’s very difficult to leave no trace when you’re trying to rush off in a horrible environment,” he said.