Burning Man Faces Drastic Changes Pending Federal Decisions

Imagine arriving to Black Rock City surrounded by cement barriers, dumpsters, security, and vehicle searches as you approach the gates of Burning Man. The festival awaits a major federal environmental impact statement that could restructure the festival, forever.

“The future of Black Rock City is at risk, and we need your continued support”

Burning Man

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has published its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) that outlines a series of operational requirements to ensure that Burning Man stays compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

What Does This Mean?

The BLM is concerned about the impact of the festival growing from 80,000 to 100,000 attendees. This growth poses negative environmental impact risks, according to the bureau. The concerns revolve around the Playa surface, air quality, and traffic flow. They are also concerned that a festival, this massive in size, could attract risks for a terrorism attack.

Burning Man

Currently, the Bureau is reviewing over 2,000 public comments that will be taken into account releasing the final environmental impact statement that was released in April. Target date for this final statement to publish is June 14th, 2019, according to BLM spokesman, Rudy Evenson. The event begins Aug. 25.

“We’re already moving forward with planning this year’s event with the assurance (from the BLM) that there won’t be any significant changes,” Burning Man CEO Marian Goodell told the Reno Gazette Journal last week.

Burning Man officials estimate that the cost of proposed measures could reach $20 million. The annual budget of the festival is around $40 million as is. Marnee Benson, BM’s associate director of government affairs, says BLM’s requests are fueled by greed over environmental concerns.

What Happens Now

Burning Man has continued to hold a 30-year legacy since it first started on San Francisco’s Baker Beach in 1990 before moving to the Playa. A “Leave No Trace Gathering” has always been BM’s mantra. Festival attendees are diligent in knowing they must appropriately carry and dispose of their own trash. Burning Man organizers hope that the final report will reflect the grievances they and their massive following have expressed.

“The BLM has to do their job,” Goodell said, “but we’re disappointed that we saw such extreme options, and the draft didn’t recognize the 30 years of work, the 30 years of history we have.”

“I don’t think they’re trying to prevent us from happening. We’re an anomaly; it takes courage and perspective to want to let us flourish.”