Burning Man public hearings set

Burning Man public hearings set

Burning Man public hearings set

As the Bureau of Land Management considers Burning Man's Special Recreation Permit (SRP) renewal for 2019 to 2028, the agency will collect public input on the festival at three public hearings next month. The three hearings in Gerlach, Reno and Lovelock will be hosted by BLM and Burning Man officials.

According to the BLM press release, the meetings will be conducted in an open house format with time set aside for a presentation and a question and answer period with BLM and Burning Man staff members. Preliminary issues brought up at the first three public hearings will be “carried forward” during the formal scoping process on the proposed SRP renewal expected to begin in March, 2018.

“Public involvement is an extremely important piece of this process as the BLM prepares to analyze the proposed renewal of the SRP,” said BLM Public Affairs Specialist Kyle Hendrix. “BLM and Burning Man are excited to announce these opportunities for early public involvement and encourage all who have input on the issues, impacts and potential alternatives to attend one of the meetings.”

Comments may also be emailed to blm.nv.burningmaneis@blm.gov according to Hendrix.

Since 1990, public land on the Black Rock Playa in the far northwest corner of Pershing County has been closed for the event. The event has since exploded in size and tickets are sold to around 70,000 paid participants plus thousands of staff members, volunteers and contract workers who attend the event.

Organizers may increase the ticket sales if approved in the BLM's next 10 year SRP for the event.

Some towns see major economic benefits including Reno, Fernley and Gerlach. Lovelock had received annual cash donations in the past from event organizers but otherwise sees little of the positive benefits.

The cash donations declined in recent years after Pershing County was locked in a legal dispute over county event fees with Black Rock City (BRC), the organization behind the festival. A 2013 settlement agreement between the county and BRC ended the litigation but restricts the amount BRC will pay the county for law enforcement, courtroom and prosecution costs and other services impacted by the event.

No other entity that patrols the festival appears to operate under a budget restriction including the BLM and Washoe County. The settlement agreement does not sit well with some Pershing County officials including Sheriff Jerry Allen who says the event costs his agency more than the terms of the agreement.

The limited budget leaves his agency under-equipped and some resources must be shared with other agencies at the event, Allen says. The eight-day festival requires year-round planning and requires law enforcement resources that may be needed elsewhere in Pershing County. Last year, a fatal shooting in Lovelock during the festival stretched the county's limited law enforcement resources.

Allen's top concern is public safety everywhere in the county but says he lacks the resources needed to maximize public safety during a natural or man-made disaster at the festival. This year, wet weather left the playa flooded until sometime in July, forcing event organizers to consider alternative locations.

All three of next month's Burning Man outreach hearings are in the evenings from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The first hearing will be at the Gerlach Community Center on December and the second will be on December 5 at the Atlantis Hotel/Casino (Grand Ballroom #4) in Reno. The third hearing at the C Punch Inn & Casino in Lovelock on December 6 is also scheduled from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Hendrix said a summary of Burning Man's Proposed Action, with an outline of the major SRP renewal elements, is available online at https://go.usa.gov/xnBTu. Or, those with questions about the public hearings may call Hendrix at 775-635-4054 or email him at khendrix@blm.gov.