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No Trace Ethic

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Land Arts operates within the guidelines of the Leave No Trace program, which has developed from the Leave No Trace Principles of the Bureau of Land Management. On the Black Rock Desert during Burning Man the term MOOP is used to describe matter out of place. This definition of dirt comes from Mary Douglas and her book Purity and Danger: an analysis of concepts of pollution and taboo (Routledge: 2002) ISBN 9780415291057. It is a helpful index to locate the relational importance of our actions and how we move material around the planet. The critical components of our no trace ethic are described below. Please refer to the links above for more details.


Contents

Camping in Fragile Environments

Land Arts camps and operates in the fragile ecosystem of the desert southwest. We are in the desert to learn through first hand experience how the traces of history have been inscribed into the arid landscape. This educational opportunity comes with the responsibility to understand and value our relationship to land. Most of the places we occupy are held in some sort of public trust. They belong to all of us. As such it is important for Land Arts participants to respect the collective ownership of these places and to help care for them. The desert regenerates very slowly. While it appears to often be an a state of erasure, the reality is that traces in the desert remain for long periods of time. So, it is particularly important that we tread lightly on the lands we visit and that we take care in where and how we camp and work.


Biological Soil Crusts

While the initial appearance of the desert is of a sparse and open space with little vegetation. The surface is actually held together by a complex network of biological organisms that are very fragile and easily disturbed. It is important to be able to identify the presence of biological soil crusts in the field to prevent damaging them. Recovery occurs very slowly (50-250 years depending on the species). Therefore it is very important to avoid further disruption. See the following references for additional information:

http://www.soilcrust.org/crust101.htm
http://www.nps.gov/archive/care/crypto.htm
http://geochange.er.usgs.gov/sw/impacts/biology/crypto/


Human Waste

In most cases while at remote sites we will dispose of our human waste by burying it in distributed individual cat holes (6 to 8 inch deep and 200 feet away from water sources). When conditions are appropriate toilet paper will be burned and buried in the same hole with human waste. When burning is not appropriate toilet paper and all feminine hygiene products will be packed out as trash.


Working in the Landscape

Carrying the no trace ethic into how we work in the landscape is essential. That is not to say our actions should be confined, but that we must take into account the affect of our actions and be responsible for the management and remediation of those affects. The landscape is our studio and the palette for our work. Projects can take a wide range of manifestations. What is essential is that the author of the work is prepared to return the site to the condition that it was found in (or better in the case of removing any existing MOOP). Making small tests prior to large actions to insure assumptions about cleaning or the possibility of repositioning is a good idea.


Deconstruction and Remediation of Work

After work is created and documented it must be dismantled and removed from site--regardless of whether it is made with found or introduced material. The objective is to return the site to its original condition and every effort must be made to that affect. Allow sufficient time and daylight to insure success.