Future of Burning Man rests on permit renewal

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - For Burning Man to continue in the Black Rock Desert, the event’s Special Recreation Permit needs to be renewed for another ten years by the Bureau of Land Management, but event organizers are say they don't like what's being proposed.

"We do have serious concerns about part of this Environmental Impact Statement," says Marnee Benson with Burning Man.

The BLM has put out a Draft Environmental Impact Statement along with proposed action and alternatives.

"One of the alternatives is capping the population at fifty thousand, which it was in 2012 the last time we did a permit renewal. Another alternative is moving it a little further up the Playa since the ground is just a little higher, and in 2017 we were wondering if the Playa was going to dry out in time," says Mark Hall with the BLM.

There are five proposed alternatives. One would grow the population of the event to 100,000 people over the course of time and increase the acreage of the city. Mark Hall with the BLM says no preferred alternative has been selected.

"That's what we want to get from the public. What does the public say our preferred alternative should be?"

Benson says one of the alternatives is proposing the BLM would take over operations at the event. She also says some of the proposed mitigations wouldn’t be good for the environment, such as possible concrete barriers around the event's nine-mile perimeter fence.

"The weight of those barriers alone is estimated to be 19 million pounds. Those barriers would need to be transported on flatbed trucks, so that's fuel consumption, greenhouse gas emissions; also the placement of those barriers on the Playa would produce dunes, which is also a concern for the environment," says Benson.

Hall says the barriers being proposed for increased safety were created after talks with the FBI and Homeland Security. He adds nothing presented in the draft is finalized.

"These are only proposed mitigations. If someone has a better way to solve those problems, hey, more power to them and we are ready to listen," says Hall.

Both the BLM and Burning man representatives say it's a tough time but they are committed to renewing the permit.

There is another public hearing Tuesday, April 8 at the Lovelock Community Center. The public comment period is open until April 29. The BLM expects to have a decision made in July, before this year's event takes place.