Black Rock Desert is a seemingly endless expanse for the annual Burning Man Project. However, the United States Bureau of Land Management is recommending an event attendance cap for the next 10 years.
The festival takes place 100 miles north of Reno and currently has an 80,000 person capacity. Organizers have proposed raising this to as high as 100,000 attendees in coming years.
After releasing the final environmental impact statement on June 14th, the BLM says it prefers to stick with the cap that’s been in place since 2017.
Alternatives proposed in the final environmental impact statement included capping the total population for the event to 50,000 or, worst-case scenario, not issuing a permit to Burning Man. That’s right—there’s a tiny chance that Burning Man could be cancelled.
The agency has said that it will work with Burning Man organizers to address environmental and security concerns. However, the BLM will not advocate any of the changes proposed at this time.
The bureau is also considering hiring a private security firm this year to conduct drug screenings, but might wait until 2020. News of this idea has caused a bit of an uproar with event attendees, who’ve been deeming the drug searches unconstitutional in public meetings.
Growing Local Concerns
Rudy Evenson, a BLM spokesman, told the Reno Gazette Journal:
“ The BLM and cooperating agencies could not support the event growing. The city of Reno, Nevada Department of Transportation, Nevada Highway Patrol as well as the Bureau of Land Management could not support the growth particularly because there are other events going on during Labor Day.”
One third of the federal agency’s law enforcement is needed to patrol the current size of the event. If the event grew to 100,000, this would grow to . one half required.
Another concern, voiced by spokesman Evenson, is finding ways to alleviate traffic congestion on surrounding roads. Alternative solutions from transportation agencies would need to be created before any growth.
On the bright side, the agency said it could permit growth of the event in the future if BLM officials and festival organizers find solutions to the problems discussed. Despite the positive sentiment, this isn’t the first time the Burning Man Project and the BLM have butted heads on these issues.
In light of the environmental impact statement, Burning Man representatives said they intend to thoroughly analyze the document by the BLM. Above all, the organization intends to focus on 2019’s event held August 25th – September 2nd.
“Our priority at the moment is the 2019 event, and we are deeply engaged in planning and production,” Burning Man organizers said.