An Update on the EIS and Black Rock City 2020

Last summer, Burning Man Project completed an Environmental Impact Statement with the Bureau of Land Management to cover the next 10 years of permits to hold the Burning Man event in the Black Rock Desert. All of the documentation, including the Final EIS and the Record of Decision, is available here. You did your part to get us through this exhaustive process, submitting hundreds of comments about many of BLM’s unreasonable proposed mitigations. Thanks in large part to your involvement in the process and to our successful track record, we didn’t see dumpsters, concrete barriers, or federal gate security in Black Rock City in 2019. 

It is important to note though: our work is not done! What’s in store for future years? We’re here today to give you an update.

In late 2019, BLM provided assurances that we will NOT see dumpsters, concrete barriers, or federal security at the Gate in 2020. While that’s GREAT news for 2020, we still need assurances for future years so that we can ensure the ongoing success of Black Rock City and the sustainability of Burning Man culture. We’ve now entered into an “adaptive management” approach with BLM, where BLM reviews the previous year, discusses the event with Burning Man Project, and monitors Black Rock City again the following year. The plan is that together we’ll decide what solutions will be in place for future years. If something isn’t working or we fail to meet established standards, BLM’s proposed EIS mitigations could still be imposed.

In 2019, we saw your commitment to Leaving No Trace and Civic Responsibility – both in Black Rock City and in our neighboring towns – and coming off a year with the greenest MOOP Map ever, we have to continue doing this amazing work so we can keep calling the Black Rock Desert our home. We know that our environmental values, event operations, and partnerships with Nevada agencies and tribes are more important than ever.

As we come out of winter hibernation and you start having those theme camp planning calls, please take a moment to consider your impact, and think of ways you can help on the road to being carbon negative. Thank you for all that you do, and we can’t wait to see you in the desert!

Top photo by Scott London

About the author: Burning Man Project

Burning Man Project

The official voice of the Burning Man organization, managed by Burning Man Project's Communications Team.

27 Comments on “An Update on the EIS and Black Rock City 2020

  • Keru says:

    Thank you for the update, and lack of concrete barriers and dumpsters in 2019! May they ever stay away. You might also speak to how the current litigation with the BLM over fees might impact the event’s future.

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  • Jim Foster says:

    I think few attendees understand what a well functioning team organizes the event.

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  • Matt Matt says:

    Thank you for the update, and for all of your ongoing work towards sustaining our friendship burning man culture!

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  • Chuck Lewis says:

    Great work. Lead by example.

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  • Pluto says:

    Nice. I never understood how concrete barriers or federal security at the gate might “protect” the environment, but I’d glad they’re not here this year.

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    • samson says:

      the concrete barriers were for terrorism abatement and the hired security was to find drugs. ‘environment’ has a broader scope in the sense of a report like this, it’s not just about air & water.

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    • SinglePly says:

      The NEPA law requires that federal agency undertakings not only address the protection of the natural environment but also the protection of public health and safety. The National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was signed into law on January 1, 1970.

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  • Frost says:

    Congratulations to the entire team. You work harder than any newbie will ever understand. A difficult task to ensure that the event is open and accessible to all who seek it, yet with enough levers in place to ensure the seasoned burners do their part to inspire everyone to leave the playa better than we found it. Also pleased the BLM team is showing a willingness to compromise and serve the citizens who pay them to do their jobs. We are all in this together, and hopefully working toward similar goals.

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  • SinglePly says:

    Thank you for your coordination work.

    For those who are not familiar with NEPA, the law requires that federal undertakings not only address the protection of the natural environment but also the protection of public health and safety.

    I think BRC and the BLM will find a away to avoid the need for concrete barriers and dumpsters but, it’s going to be interesting to see how BRC and the BLM use an adaptive management approach to prohibit illegal drugs and weapons from entering the city.

    Relevant Excerpts from the RECORD OF DECISION AND, SPECIAL RECREATION PERMIT APPROVAL, Burning Man Special Recreation Permit Renewal (July 2019)

    Page 5:
    All mitigation and monitoring measures listed in Appendix E of the Burning Man Event SRP Final EIS will be implemented in 2019, except for the following mitigation and monitoring measures, which will be implemented in a phased approach when most appropriate and logistically feasible. The BLM has a goal of implementing all mitigation and monitoring measures by 2022.

    • An adaptive management approach will be taken regarding security at all portals of entry. A third- party contractor will be employed to screen vehicles, participants, vendors, contractors, and staff and volunteers entering the Event. This mitigation will be implemented as soon as logistically possible, but will not be in effect for the 2019 Event (Mitigation Measure PHS-1).

    Page 6:
    Because of the complex nature of the Burning Man Event, the BLM will employ an adaptive management approach to some mitigation measures. As the first step in this process, the BLM will work with BRC to develop an initial mitigation approach starting with the 2019 Event. Beginning with the 2019 Event, monitoring, as described in Table E-2 of Appendix E in the Final EIS, will provide the BLM with the necessary information to determine the effectiveness of the initial mitigation approach. If monitoring results demonstrate that the initial mitigation approach effectively prevents the unnecessary and undue degradation of public lands and protects public health and safety, then no additional mitigation or stipulations will be required. If monitoring results demonstrate that the initial mitigation approach is not effective, then the BLM will apply the mitigation measures listed in Appendix E. The BLM may also add or remove stipulations for each annual Event in response to new monitoring data. Adaptive management will apply to the following mitigation measures:

    • BRC will be required to implement physical perimeter barriers and controls to reduce the risk of unauthorized entry to the Event (Mitigation Measure PHS-3).

    • To reduce litter and trash in the PLPT Reservation, along SR 447, and other routes accessing the playa, BRC, as part of its annual Event Plan of Operations, must develop a trash collection plan for the major egress routes from the Event (Mitigation Measure WHS-1).

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  • Uncle Bullhorn says:

    Fantastic update, thank you.

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  • A-A-Ron says:

    IDK if it’s a sign but “fly me to the moon” came on while I was reading this.

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  • Burner FKA FlyingMonkey says:

    Great work. Personally I’d rather see dumpsters at exodus than miles of trash along the highway. The trail we leave scattered with trash is how the public judges us. I honestly don’t understand the opposition to dumpsters. I get the whole LNT principal but it seems the Org has willfully abandoned Radical self Reliance turning a blind eye to P-n-P camps for years.

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    • John Barleycorn says:

      Roger that. Exodus dumpsters may not be such a bad idea. Might add a few dollars to the ticket, but could do wonders for PR with locals.

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    • Python says:

      I am pretty sure my math is correct based on our bags of trash we took home with us last year. I calculate it would take a line of dumpsters 18 miles long to contain the trash from Burning Man for the event. That is a lot more than a trace.

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  • Oink says:

    Great news!!!

    Regarding theme camps and planning for this year, something that was discussed during resto was the possibility of gifting a ziploc bag, a nail, and a 40′ string to camp LNT leads, from the placement team that checks in with the camp. This demonstrates exactly what burning will be scrutinized against for the BLM inspection and gives them camps a way to “inspect” themselves before leaving playa.

    I would really love to see this in 2020 and would help out with my fellow trash pandas in any way I could.

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  • Susan says:

    I’ve never been to Burning Man and probably will never go, but can you guys go run the government. I’ve never seen anything like you!

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  • Pixel says:

    Only floating a trial balloon here, not advocating for it, but what it there were exodus dumpsters to address the roadside problems but there was a per bag or unit charge instead of an increase in the ticket price to fund it? BRC isn’t for profit or commercial but we seem to agree that ice and excellent coffee available at rates subsidized by revenues are in our common interest, and these aren’t “socialist” (so tired of this) like the centrally managed *totally socialist* porta-potties are.

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  • Steve Hunt (Pine) says:

    Great news.
    Are we doing enough to show BLM and the non-Burner public the benefits Burning Man brings to the greater community? Can we do more so we have more to show? I believe Kindle was intended to promote doing more beyond the Playa. It was shocking to see it postponed.

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  • Steve Harvey says:

    Please shut it down forever, it’s what Larry would have wanted.

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  • Lou Raso says:

    Please update us about the BM lawsuit against BLM. It’s about time BLM has accountability. How about BM plans to grow there event?

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