Burning Man Up in Arms Over Feds’ New Demands

A federal agency is asking Burning Man to jack up security, cede control of oversight, and pay a whole lot more money to use the Black Rock Desert.

Burning Man does not yet have a permit for this year’s annual thing in the desert (Aug. 25 – Sept, 2, 2019), but that’s a pretty normal state of affairs. They’ve been granted that permit to use the Black Rock Desert now for 27 years in a row — but it’s going a whole lot less smoothly than normal this year, as Burning Man is applying for a 10-year permit and permission to up its annual attendance to 100,000.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that oversees the desert has submitted 372 pages of demands, and the Reno Gazette Journal reports that Burning Man calls these rules “unreasonable” and “brazen.”

The Burning Man team is pretty measured in their tweet above, but they stroke a more urgent tone in the Burning Man Journal response. “Many of the measures recommended by BLM are unreasonable,” the post says. “Some are in direct conflict with our community’s core principles and would forever negatively change the fabric of the Burning Man event.

“One particularly brazen recommendation would require Burning Man Project to pay for maintenance of County Road 34, which leads to the event’s entrance. We know of no other instance in the United States where a private entity is required by the federal government to pay for maintenance of a public county road that is also used year-round by residents, tourists, and businesses.”

Other concerns include the demand that event’s orange plastic trash fence be replaced with concrete jersey barriers, and the requirement that Burning Man pay for a new private security force — who would report to the BLM, and not to Burning Man — to screen incoming vehicles “for weapons and drugs.”

The post also notes that adhering to these new requirements would cost the Burning Man organization an extra $10 million per year, which would “raise ticket prices substantially.” (Ticket prices are already set at $425 for Burning Man 2019, and by the way, ticket registration begins this Wednesday, April 3, and Noon PT.)

The BLM insists that these are just proposals, and a work in progress that is still subject to public comment and review.

“We look forward to discussions over the next few weeks with [Burning Man] over these mitigations,” Mark Hall, field manager for the BLM Black Rock Field Office tells the Gazette Journal. “These mitigations are attempts at trying to solve problems, so maybe there’s a better way.”

In the spirit of Radical Inclusion, you can participate by submitting your own comment to the BLM Burning Man feedback portal, which remains open until Monday, April 29. If you’re really hardcore, there will be public meetings on April 8 in Reno and April 9 in Lovelock, though the BLM says that “Times and venues are still being arranged.”

“We want to hear from participants and the public,” Hall says. “If there are flaws in our analysis, let us know.”

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