Final EIS Due Out June 14

Tomorrow we expect the Bureau of Land Management’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to be published and linked on the BLM ePlanning website. I’m here today to give you an update on the EIS, the 2019 event, and beyond.

But first, THANK YOU. Thank you to the over 1,800 people who submitted substantive comments about the BLM’s Draft EIS after it was published on March 15. We asked for your help, and you delivered.

We read every word of the (800!) comments you shared with us via email and were blown away by your expertise, passion, and support. You picked up on the sections of the Draft EIS that concern us most and explained to BLM why the agency’s recommendations were unfounded or problematic. We believe you made a real impact, and we are extremely grateful.

Final EIS & Mitigations

This EIS has been a long journey– more than three years and $1.5 million in the making. Tomorrow we expect to see the final report, which includes our future population size and BLM’s mitigations, and then 30 days after that, the Record of Decision explaining how the EIS requirements will take effect.

We’re counting on some things in the Final EIS to be changed as a result of public comments that were submitted, and we know some things will remain the same. A 30-day review and appeal period starts the day the Final EIS is published. We want you to know that if any egregious issues remain in the document, we will be crafting our comments and letting you know how you can participate.

Right now, we’re giving you a heads up so that when the Final EIS is published tomorrow and you receive your copy (if you commented on the Draft EIS), you have some context, and know we’re reading the document and analyzing its contents. We’ll post more in the Journal when we’re done, so look for our update.

No matter what comes out tomorrow, we need you to keep holding the line on environmental protection and safety so that we can all enjoy Black Rock City while minimizing our impacts on the playa and nearby communities. Keep doing your part on environmental protection, like drip pans under your vehicles and proper disposal of waste when you leave. Keep doing your part on safety, including first aid kits in your camps and obeying traffic laws, especially on tribal lands, leading into the event. Your participation to keep the event safe is important.

Remember that your decisions and actions before and after the Burning Man event reflect on our entire community. We don’t want dumpsters on the playa, because that’s not our culture. Even accidental debris on the roadside has an impact. Be the role model you want to see in the world!

2019 & Beyond

Many of you have asked about the impact of this process on Black Rock City 2019. We’ve been assured by BLM that the Record of Decision will be issued in mid-July, in time for our 2019 permit to be issued, and we’re planning for NO major changes for this year’s event. We understand that any major changes from the EIS may be contingent on population or other factors and could be phased in starting in 2020.  

Speaking of population, back in November 2017 when we launched the EIS public process, we told you that we had no immediate plans to grow Black Rock City, and that is still true. We wanted to study the possible impacts of growth first so that we could continue to make well-informed decisions about the future.

During the EIS process, many of you expressed concerns about Burning Man’s environmental impacts. You also agreed with us that BLM didn’t study the environmental impacts of their own recommendations. We want you to know that we hear you. We’re committed to understanding, reducing, and offsetting our impacts where feasible, and we’re committed to deepening our work on environmental sustainability. Soon we’ll be communicating more on this important global and local issue.

Burning Man has a long, successful history of leaving no trace in the Black Rock Desert, and it’s time to broaden this effort to include more of our operations and impact off-playa. More of your creative ideas will be needed as we chart our course forward. We look forward to taking the next steps with you.

THANK YOU for your support and participation in the most unique event on the planet. We are together spawning a culture that fosters change. We will see you out in the world doing your part to bring about a more connected life!

Top photo by Will Roger Peterson

About the author: Marnee Benson

Marnee Benson

Marnee is Burning Man Project’s Associate Director of Government Affairs. Her work focuses on permitting and relationships with the Nevada Legislature, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Pershing County, and multiple other Nevada agencies. She helps Burning Man navigate Nevada politics and federal issues affecting the Burning Man event. Marnee’s first trip to Black Rock City was 2001, and in 2007 she worked with the Department of Public Works and the Communications team, writing and photographing content for the Burning Blog “Building Black Rock City”. From 2009 to 2013, she served as the Deputy Director at Black Rock Solar. She loves the way Burning Man expands her world and flips ideas upside down.

37 Comments on “Final EIS Due Out June 14

  • Markle says:

    Thank you for everything you’re doing to save the event and the culture

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  • Thomas Andrejko says:

    Thank you for the update. I am looking forward to do my part to keep Burning Man at Black Rock

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  • Kari says:

    Thank you for your work!

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  • ira says:

    I adore you and the work you’ve put into this, body and soul, Marnee. This effort has been an undertaking of many hands and hearts, curated by the work of a few and in the end, it takes the leadership of one. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to pick up the phone and check on you (and a lot of others!)

    Thanks for the update (and I’ve already been hitting refresh on my link to the site/waiting for my copy!)

    Let’s go back to Midburn in 2020! Regionals, woo! ;)

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  • Misa says:

    Thank you for all the energy and hard work you put into this! <3

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  • Amanda says:

    Thank you so much for everything you do. As a local, I know that it’s what happens OFF playa, after the event is over, that is scrutinized fully. So the impact of the event,off playa, is definitely something left to be desired. Thank you again

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  • ActuallyReadingThroughTheDocuments says:

    WHERE IS APPENDIX B???? It’s totaly missing from, although mentioned in, all three of these official documents posted by the BLM (and it purports to contain very important and relevant information – i.e. Special Recreation Permit and Stipulations):

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  • Iheartplaya says:

    Thank you to the ORG for all their incredible work!!!….but, has anyone else notice that Appendix B is missing from all the published documents? What’s up with that?

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  • Scotto says:

    (Someone posted all this to reddit)

    Alternative D has been selected:
    The event will occur with no population growth during the ten year period. This means that a total of 80,000 people will be allowed onsite until at least 2028.

    In the final EIS the BLM has updated many facets of the mitigations. Listed below are some of the most contentious ones.

    NAT-2 Dumpsters: This mitigation has been completely removed from the EIS. Yay.

    PHS-1 Private Security at Gate: They are still requiring private security. However the contracting will be done through the BLM, not BRC. This security force will report “banned or illegal contraband” directly to law enforcement. Federal agency contracting out private security to conduct their unconstitutional searches.

    PHS-3 The Wall Around BRC: The requirement has been shortened. It now just reads, “BRC will be required to implement physical perimeter barriers and controls to reduce the risk of unauthorized entry to the Event.”

    PHS-4 Building Inspections: This one was loosened up a bit, fortunately. Now structures over 10 feet must only be inspected if they are for lodging and aren’t tents, RV’s, or motorhomes. Also, the inspection will be done by BRC staff, not “Nevada-certified building inspectors.”

    VIS-1 Lighting: They’re letting us point our lights towards the sky. However, the BLM is going to monitor us to make sure we don’t spew too many photons.

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  • SinglePly says:

    I’m glad the BLM selected Alternative D and will keep the population to 80,000 instead of allowing BRC to increase to 100,000. I dreaded the idea of more clueless, asshole “participants” trashing the playa and local communities.

    Public Health and Safety Mitigation Measure 1 states “At all portals of entry into the Event, beginning approximately 14 days before Labor Day, BLM will contract third-party, private security to screen vehicles and participants, vendors and contractors, and staff and volunteers entering the Event. Third-party, private security will report banned or illegal contraband or significant concerns directly to law enforcement as violations are observed so that law enforcement can respond.”

    Since I don’t bring weapons or illegal drugs to the event each year I don’t think this is a big worry and it may help reduce the numbers of clueless, asshole participants.

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  • Scribe says:

    I’m also happy to see BM’s proposal to grow to 100,000 was denied. That’s too big and there should have been more public discussion before that was even proposed. It’s unfortunate that BLM is still requiring third-party security searches and a physical barrier around the event, but it looks like they’re holding off on the dumpster requirement for now.

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  • tony says:

    All you assholes applauding the population cap, I hope you don’t get tickets…EVER

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    • SinglePly says:

      I’m still hoping BM will will figure out how to implement 100% directed ticketing to Participants who build and make BRC reach it’s full potential.

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  • Some Seeing Eye says:

    I know all the Burning Man staff has been consumed by the EIS, culture, OSS, and governmental liaison, much more than previous years.

    And burners have been similarly consumed. Over 2000 burners took the time to read the documents and provide heartfelt and logical comments. Over 1700 wrote unique non-form letter contributions.

    We have a challenge to go onward. But many of the solutions are entirely within our control and creativity.

    Burners should be very proud of that!

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  • Gary says:

    Eventually BMorg needs to locate and purchase suitable desert land to control BRCs future forever. I think a nearby rail line should also be available as transportation is one of the key ingredients to both growth and sustainability.
    How many millions are paid annually to the feds? These funds could all go towards a permanent home.

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  • Glenn Willen says:

    Curiously, although my letter was identified in the index as one containing substantive comments, it doesn’t seem they actually included it anywhere in Appendix K’s list of responses. However, given the incredible volume of letters, I’m not shocked if some got lost in editing or what-have-you.

    More irritating is the fact that many of their responses don’t seem especially responsive. They have gathered all the concerns about private security searches — which span 78 pages of appendix K, totaling hundreds of comments — into the summary “Commenters questioned how having private security screening everyone entering the Event will affect wait times to enter the Event and suggested that this screening process could increase the wait time to days instead of hours to enter the Event. Commenters also asked the BLM to consider how this mitigation measure violates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution.”

    Then in their response, which is all of a paragraph, they basically brush off most of the concerns conclusorily and without comment. The sum total of their response to the obvious point that such a screening will add massive waiting time and traffic congestion is the conclusory statement that there is no evidence that it will, which seems to amount to a plain response of “no.”

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    • Glenn Willen says:

      Their summary also totally ignores other points, which certainly were included in my letter although I have not searched through the hundreds of comments quoted to verify that someone else mentioned them (Although I’m sure they were brought up): participant resistance to invasive searches (and they will have to be invasive to accomplish their aims) is likely to lead to unrest and reduced cooperation between participants and law enforcement.

      (They mention in their response that searches happen at the gate of other events, but I assume in many cases those were personal searches — I can’t believe they have experience with vehicle searches at such a massive scale and with the degree of thoroughness that would be required to accomplish their apparent aims.)

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  • 4A is still on the books says:

    Any single one of the BLM demands just by itself can run the event into the ground. The one that seemingly is left in it’s original state is not an exception. Security searches – now it is what, 6-8 hours wait time to get in, considering the the only thing that is being looked for is stowaways. Add to that a search for a sandwich bag size of “contraband” in every vehicle including all these fully loaded RVs with half a dozen bikes on top? Argument like <> is ridiculous – you’re still gonna be waiting in the same fucking line in hopes to get in by Thursday at best.

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    • Jamal says:

      Don’t worry about it. You’ll still get to tell your friends that you went to Burning Man. And the couple days you have there can be spent taking Instagram pics to prove it.

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      • 4A is still on the books says:

        Jamal, for the past 10 years I’ve kinda ODed on pictures and other memorabilia. Unfortunately same goes for the number of hours spent in line to get in/out. Not looking to accumulate any more of the latter much as I can help it.
        Guess we’re enjoying different aspects of the event and in true BM spirit you’re cordially invited to take my share of in line waiting either/both ways.

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      • Jamal says:

        4A, sounds like you need to learn the art of faking a theme camp application so you can get early entry passes. That’s how it’s done. No lines in or out. You leave on Tuesday after the burn and it’s all like butter.

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  • Janet says:

    The most exciting part will be with your vehicle loaded up with friends of friends and half of them are packing at least an 8th and a few pills. So when you, as the driver, gets searched – all the stash goes between the seats. “But I thought you guys were my friends!”, you’ll cry. Driver, if it’s in your vehicle, you own it. Enjoy carpooling with strangers.

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  • gamer says:

    Commenters also asked the BLM to consider how this mitigation measure violates the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution

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  • xbox codes says:

    Over 2000 burners took the time to read the documents and provide heartfelt and logical comments.

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