Reading the Fine Print of the New Permit

I had a chance over lunch to look through the 13 page decision issued by the Bureau of Land Management. Basically, last year they were considering a permit increase to near 70,000 over 5 years. In 2011 they got busted letting more people in than their permit allowed, and so last year’s permit was a temporary, one-time-only Special Use Permit. BMOrg behaved well, official population count was below the permit level, and the increased tickets got through.

pershing county flagIn the meantime, Pershing County has been trying to muscle in on the Burning Man action. First, they’re trying to increase their fees, from around $140,000 to more like $800,000. Burning Man didn’t like this, so they sued them. Pershing fought back, Burning Man appealed, both sides claimed small victories along the way – with the most recent one going to Burning Man. BMOrg went to Washington and to the Nevada State assembly, and got the law changed in a way that (seemingly) would give BLM control. This seemed like it would be good for BMOrg, although we called the outcome as unpredictable when we covered it.

Well, a couple of clauses in the fine print of the permit suggest that this maybe wasn’t a great result for BMOrg at all. If anything, trying to go around Pershing County to the State and the Feds has only served to piss Pershing County off, and give them a tighter grip on the festival than they had before.

Yes, it seems, Pershing County might have us by the balls.

22. BRC shall complete formal agreements with all affected parties, including Pershing County Sheriff’s Department, Washoe County Sheriff’s Department, Nevada Department of Public Safety-Nevada Highway Patrol, and Nevada Department of Health and Human Safety, for the purpose of addressing concerns and impacts associated with social services (e.g., law enforcement and emergency medical services and physical infrastructure, transportation systems, and human waste disposal). 

 Written evidence of these agreements showing compliance with this stipulation must be provided to the BLM by BRC 15 days prior to the start of the event 

animals humpingRight now, it is 33 days until the gates open. So Burning Man has basically 2 weeks to get an agreement – in writing – from the Pershing County Sheriff’s department (and the other 4 local agencies as well), saying they’re happy with everything.

Not only that, any co-ordination for people injured or killed has to go through Pershing as well. Which seems strange since the deaths in the past have been declared in Reno, most likely Washoe hospital.

28. In cooperation with emergency services providers and law enforcement agencies, BRC shall, within a reasonable time after learning of them, notify the BLM and appropriate agencies of all accidents related to the event that occur before, during, and after the event, that result in death or personal injury requiring hospitalization. Accident reports involving death or injury will be coordinated with the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office and the BLM. 

We hope that behind the scenes everyone is frantically working to patch things up with the locals. Because, as outsiders, the latest information we have is from June 2013:

ENO, Nev. (AP) — Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has signed into law a bill that streamlines the permitting process for the Burning Man festival and other events on federal land.

The new law gives counties the right to opt out of state permitting requirements for events held on federal land that already undergo a comprehensive federal permitting process.

Pershing County commissioners earlier passed a resolution exempting Burning Man from county permitting requirements.

Burning Man spokesman Ray Allen calls the new law “a huge victory” for the festival. He says it “ensures local permitting requirements won’t infringe upon the First Amendment rights of Burning Man participants.”

I’m not so sure that is the case. I guess it depends on how much pressure there is on the Pershing County Sheriff’s department to sign off in writing, no later than August 11. If they don’t sign, then our rights would be pretty freaking infringed.

Going back to what Pershing County is claiming in the courtroom,

Pershing County argues that despite the event being on federal land, the local jurisdiction has authority over policing and judicial actions and the county should be compensated for the resources expended.

So, the local jurisdiction cops are still in control – in fact now they are the primary go-to point if anything goes wrong. Even if someone dies or gets injured in another county, they have to be informed. And the judge is still in control, none of this affects him in any way. He will still be imposing “discouraging” sentences on any Burners brought before his court room. And he doesn’t like the event, remember:

…Commenting that Burning Man “purveys titillation,” he made the following additional statements:

a. “I’m very concerned about what the community standards are becoming in this 
community. When they first came, everyone was shocked. Now, we’ve 
accepted them and now we’re embracing them, because what? They bring 
money to the community? Something’s wrong with that.”

b. “This isn’t a place for young people under eighteen to be, under any 
circumstances. That’s my opinion.”

c. “You want to see what a lawless culture, built like 49ers and Deadheads and 
Cyber Punks leads to? National Magazine, I would say it in two words, ‘Penn 

d. The laws of the state and the laws of this county apply to Burning Man as much 
as they do to the city limits of Lovelock, and what’s described in this article, if 
people were to do it here, they would be in jail, in prison.”

e. “[T]he idea that they can self-regulate and have their own policemen and carry 
out their own regulations is ludicrous. It is people here, county officials, who 
have absolute duty to enforce the laws. You took an oath, as did law 
enforcement, to uphold the laws and constitutions of this state. That includes 
lewdness around children and the other things that have occurred.

ballsThe BLM, of course, also still have us by the balls. But they seem much more inclined to gently caress said balls…provided they get their cut, that is. They want 25% up front – maybe $300,000 in cold hard cash – and the rest when the event is over. And they’re being quite clear, when they say “their cut”, they mean all the money. Ice sales, coffee sales, RV rentals, RV services. Donations and corporate sponsorships. “Other”, eg. movies and photo shoots. BLM get 3% of it all. That’s probably an extra half a million bucks to them over the next 4 years, over what they would have got anyway if the population had been frozen.

The BLM shall collect a commercial use fee from BRC for the use of public lands for the event. The fee, as set by regulation 43 C.F.R. § 2930, will be equal to 3% of the adjusted gross income derived from the use authorized under the SRP. Payment equal to at least 25% of the estimated commercial use fees (3% of estimated gross receipts) must be received by the BLM prior to the start of the event. 

Determination of gross income will be based on all payments received by BRC and its employees or agents for goods or services provided in connection with commercial activities authorized by the SRP. 

This includes, but is not limited to, ticket sales, coffee and ice sales, fees associated with outside services and private donations received by BRC for management of the event on public lands. 

One piece of good news is the BLM’s continued efforts to keep the indigenous Paiute people in the money loop, by encouraging them to run trash collection depots. Let’s turn a problem we make (trash), into a solution for them to a problem we didn’t make (economic hardship).

To reduce impacts to the Pyramid Lake Paiute reservation located along the access routes, BRC shall coordinate with the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe. BRC shall work with the Pyramid Lake Tribe in developing the applicant’s plan to increase public awareness and educational campaigns about Leave No Trace® on tribal land, including for example, signage on roads, Public Service Announcements on BMIR, blog-posts, etc. Also, BRC shall continue to support and promote tribal enterprises that are setup to collect participant trash and recycling for a fee, which also helps with economic benefits of the Region. 

11 comments on “Reading the Fine Print of the New Permit

  1. Pingback: 2013: Let’s Be Careful Out There! | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  2. I understand the excitement of allowing thousands more to participate, but let me tell you a story, it’s called “Fort Lauderdale Spring Break.” I’ve lived in south Florida since I was a kid, and spring break was always this very cool event, growing larger each year, until the locals had enough and said “fuck it, you’re not welcome” and passed all kinds of ordinances that effectively killed it. Where does it end? 100k? 500k? On that little 2-lane blacktop?

  3. Pingback: 2013: Let’s Be Careful Out There! | Burners.Me Burning Man commentary blog

  4. Can’t land an airplane on the Smoke Ck playa. Its always soft. There’s a reason they don’t have the event there.

  5. Or just move the event to private land, like most of the regionals. then all of these greedy agencies can have their rulership over their empty land. Have fun with that, guys.

  6. Burners (I’m a very dedicated one) – Get real. You are being ALLOWED to hold this festival on OUR public lands by the graces of a lot of people that could potentially stop you: BLM, County, hunters, environmental groups, tribes, AND the rest of the United States citizens. I’ve been working for an environmental organization to protect BLM lands in nearby E. Oregon for over 5 years, and trust me – this shit can get very messy, very quickly. I’m amazed that its even allowed, let alone encouraged by so many “stakeholders”.

    Nice article, and well written…How much does Burning Man pull in every year? How about estimated net revenue? This article is about the event paying for itself in the most radically independent way – Use my $300-500 to pay for the services of Pershing County and BLM management of my public lands, you can reduce by moving the BMOrg offices out of the Bay, or maybe put a few less blinky lights out on the playa…that shit makes my head spin (in the most amazing way).

    Take a second to think about the the enemies the BMOrg is making with this fight with the County, how that might result in more arrests, worse treatment, slower (god forbid) health care services, worse roads (yikes)…and maybe, just maybe, down the road, enough local political momentum to move the festival somewhere else.

    It’s not your right to party on the playa. Be humble, be grateful that we even were allowed to exist, and pay the fucking man already.

    • BS. It is PUBLIC land.

      Pershing County just wants in on the money train. Simply put, they want to stick their hand in our wallet simply because they can. They picked the fight, why should we feel guilty about resisting their rip-off?

    • To be clear, my tax dollars go to support the BLM’s work already. Pershing County’s request for dollars to hire a large number of officers was, in the words of my friend in law enforcement “ludicrous”: the number of arrests and such that happen at this event are, quite frankly, relatively tiny–and there are lots of municipalities that would love to have BRC’s incident stats.

  7. Pershing county wants more money and their say on what we can do? I thought this was federal land not Pershing county land. Fine be a good neighbor and let Pershing county cops in to help and duly compensate them for their time and not anything else. If they want to be idiots why not move to smoke creek next door? I’ve not been there so can it hold burning man there?

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