Concrete Barriers, Private Security Forces, and More Plug n' Plays - A Possible Future for Burning Man
TL;DR: The Bureau of Land Management is proposing that Burning Man must contract independent, third party security forces to screen vehicles and participants coming into Burning Man for contraband, and install concrete barriers and steel fences around at least some of Burning Man and/or gate road.
They also want to mandate that Burning Man increase the number of people who take buses in or fly in (most of whom can't bring sufficient supplies for themselves that way) and go onto say that this may necessitate the need for more plug n' plays to accommodate those people.
Is this what we want?
We have an opportunity to be heard. Let's take it. Details below.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) released a draft proposal yesterday in response to the Burning Man Project's ("the Org") request for a 10 year Special Recreation Permit (SRP) for Burning Man. For those unaware, the Burning Man event is held on federal land that is managed by the BLM. Every year, the Org has to get an SRP to hold the event, which comes with a maximum population for the event, but they have now requested a 10 year permit that would allow the population to grow to 100,000 people by 2022.
The draft proposal is technically called an "environmental impact statement" (EIS), which the environment in this case referring to everything that surrounds Burning Man, from the actual environment to the impact on local communities to the roads to protecting burners themselves. It's really long! 372 pages across two documents, which makes sense considering that Burning Man is the largest event in the country that receives an SRP.
I've read the interesting parts and skimmed the rest so you don't have to! Much of this is pretty dry but a couple parts really stand out.
The Scenarios Considered
The EIS considers five scenarios:
Should We Be Concerned?
I think so, yes. I'll explain, but you also don't have to take my word for it. Jim Graham, spokesmen for the Burning Man Project, told the Reno Gazette, "Our staff is reviewing the document and accompanying 11 special studies, and our initial review revealed serious concerns with parts of the proposed stipulations. At this time it is premature to provide an assessment until we have completed a thorough review. We will then provide a more detailed response."
I don't know which parts he's speaking of, but there are four areas of concern that stuck out to me when going through the documents. I've read through the stipulations for Burning Man in previous BLM EIS/SRP reports, and there is nothing like these requirements in there as far as I can tell. These are new provisions.
What Can We Do?
I doubt any of you reading this like the idea of concrete barriers and k-rail fencing, and private security forces screening cars on the way in unless you're just trolling. I can see some people liking a 50k population cap scenario, and in future years I might even agree, but it'd be a terrible thing to implement this year with ticket sales already well under way. And if you think Burning Man needs more plug n ' plays, you're probably reading the wrong blog.
Mark Hall is the BLM officer who issues the SRP, and the EIS specifically asks that feedback be sent to him.
We like to say that Burning Man is a do-ocracy. That's true, but I believe that's the case for life generally. If you want something to happen, or oppose something from happening, do something about it, don't just complain. You may not be able to dictate the reality you want, but you can do your best to nudge it in the direction you wish.
His contact info is:
Dr. Mark Hall, PhD
EIS Project Manager
Black Rock Field Office
5100 East Winnemucca Blvd.
Winnemucca, Nevada 86445
Mr. Hall's boss appears to be Ester McCullough, the district manager of the Winnemucca District Office. She can be reached at:
The public comment period goes until April 29th, so make yourself heard! Mr. Hall told the Reno Gazette that, "Right now I have an open mind and I'm very curious to see what the public has to offer in terms of our analysis."
I urge you to contact Mr. Hall and potentially Ms. McCullough if you share my concerns, but to do so in a calm and informed manner. Let's paint a positive picture of Burners for Mark and Ester and not deluge them with the equivalent of all-caps emails.
There are also going to be public hearings for comment on the EIS in Reno on April 8 and in Lovelock on April 9th. Details on them are still forthcoming as of this writing (I'll update this when I have them.)
I'm tentatively planning on being at the Reno meeting to see if I can give the reality I want to see a boost. I hope you'll consider joining me.
If you're coming, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll put together a mailing list to coordinate as many Burners that will be at the Reno meeting as possible. I think it's important we have a tight and organized response to the items in here that need to go.
Other Areas of Interest
There are some other interesting tidbits in here that I thought some of you might be interested in.
I'm Dr. Yes. I run this site, lead a theme camp called Friendgasm, and make Burning Man videos. Just say yes, folks, and help keep Burning Man weird!