Government Requirements Pits Burning Man Ideals Versus Compliance

For almost 30 years, Burning Man has been held in the Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada. Community, inclusion, and leave-no-trace are some of its core values. The Burning Man Project is seeking a new 10-year permit on their current location. As a result, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) needed to conduct environmental impact analyses.

New Hurdles for Burning Man

The results produced potential requirements that go against the Burning Man culture. For example, some of imposed requirements include providing more dumpsters inside of the city, hiring a BLM-approved private security company, and paying for maintenance on the road leading to the event’s entrance.

While setting up a a city in the desert for 70,000 people is no small task, Burning Man isn’t fully without fault. The issues that the BLM is trying to address are arrests, security, and trash issues on the playa and in the neighboring cities after the event.

In a statement released on Burning Man’s website, the organizers went on to say:

The Draft EIS does not adequately factor in the astronomical cost increases and beyond-excessive government oversight associated with BLM’s requirements. It does not adequately factor in our operational track record or expertise and proposes instead to increase federal government agency operations exponentially in order to take over or “monitor” our operations. 

Big Price Increases

These additional challenges would also come along with an approximate $20 million dollar per year price tag. As a result, this would cause ticket prices to go up by almost $300 per person. Another point, the BLM would financially benefit from this increase. This is because they take a percentage of the permit holder’s gross revenue. The Reno Gazette-Journal noted that this fee was 3%. Burning Man also paid a fee of $2.5 million to cover the labor and operations performed by the BLM.

Organizers of Burning Man are asking festival attendees past, present, and future to contact the BLM and encourage them to rethink and revamp these new conditions. Festival organizers put it perfectly saying, “Some of BLM’s proposals are in direct conflict with our community’s core principles and would forever negatively change the fabric of the event, if not outright kill it.”

History of Burning Man

Burning Man

Burning Man started in 1986. At this time, San Francisco artist, Larry Harvey, burned a wooden sculpture of a man as part of a beach bonfire for the Summer Solstice. He did this again in 1987 and 1989 with bigger and bigger sculptures. However, police stopped him in 1990 for not having a permit, putting a stop to the practice.

Harvey then joined Kevin Evans and John Law, who was planning a trip to the Playa (Burning Man festival grounds), in the Black Rock Desert. On the trip, Harvey brought his sculpture with him to be burned. From then on, the festival has happened in the desert. The event started with about 250 people but would later grow in size. In fact, by 2010, about 50,000 people attended. Since then the festival has continued to grow and the culture of the playa has spread internationally. The festival is known for not only its beautiful art scuptures, but also for some moving art installations like vamped out cars, electric bikes, and even giant moving boats. The goal of burning man is to encourage a sense of artistic expression on Earth, but also encouraging community and positive environmental impact on the playa.

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