The Great Public Land Heist Has Begun – Are We Part Of It?

Image: Outside Online

Image: Outside Online

“Conservation is a great moral issue, for it involves the patriotic duty of insuring the safety and continuance of the nation.” — Theodore Roosevelt

Call me a conspiracy theorist – if you must – but a lot of stories have been hitting my news feed lately related to our favorite little patch of Northern Nevada that surely can’t all be unrelated.

First we had the announcement of a zoning change around Gerlach, that seemed to enable the Temporary Autonomous Zone concept so favored by Larry Harvey and Peter Lamborn Wilson, aka Hakim Bey. That seemed possibly related to Billionaire Burner Larry Page’s BMOrg-endorsed vision to have all kinds of new testing grounds for Google. Not just a TAZ – also a PAZ and a SPAZ (Permanent and Semi-Permanent).

Next, the town of Empire – a “quasi-ghost town in Burning Man’s back yard”, with its abandoned Gypsum mine and potential associated site contamination issues – was sold for $11.38 million.

Then, BMOrg breathlessly announced the long awaited closure of their Fly Ranch deal, with details “coming soon” (of course). Donors put up the money for the purchase of “Nevada’s Coolest and Least Known Attraction”, but they’re not telling us who yet (or, quite possibly, ever). The Burning Man Project (as far as we have been led to believe, that is the owning entity) now has a 3800 acre ranch in an area where the local government just approved groups of up to 500 people to do whatever they want, with very minimal oversight from the authorities:

“Unless somebody comes in and points a finger and says, ‘hey they’re doing that,’ we’re not out there driving around looking for it,” [County Planner Dr Eric] Young said. “We will have an occasion to be out there from time-to-time for various inspections, (but) there are certain things like that where there’s not going to be a county person standing there looking at it.

Online pundits say the De Haviland Dash-8 is the new aircraft of choice. Image:

Online pundits say the De Haviland Dash-8 is the new aircraft of choice. Image:

Next, we heard that BMOrg have created their own commercial airline, with planes carrying up to 30 passengers at a time. Burner Express Air is imagined to be carrying 2500 passengers per day in and out of Burning Man. Assuming that they only fly passengers in daylight hours, and every flight is full, that’s a minimum of 84 flights per day. Assuming planes start just after sunrise and stop just before sunset, that’s 12 hours a day – or one new planeload every 8 minutes. That’s their vision. $995 per person for a round-trip flight from Oakland, $495 from Reno. A couple of million dollars per day. Fossil fuel and noise pollution be damned! No spectators be damned!

Like most of the aviation world, the flights will be subcontracted out to other operators. Prime contractor Advantage Flight Solutions are hiring 50 new employees to cope with the anticipated load – which sounds like a lot for a week, but more realistic for something that is anticipated to be year-round.

Also in the area just recently, a long-standing case between Burners and a powerful local land-owner (whose $7 million boat, the biggest one on Lake Tahoe, mysteriously sunk at the dock) was finally settled. The court ruled that the abandoned art car, which had not been to Burning Man in at least 4 years and was in a state of disrepair, was not a valuable piece of art work worth $1 million. The Burners lost and had to pay the other side’s legal costs: about $50k.

Remember this Burning Man founder’s claim that it’s because of them that Elon Musk and Bunny Ranch owner Dennis Hof built their Gigafactory in Reno, in one of the world’s biggest free trade zones.

Screenshot 2016-01-28 11.38.13

He recently got a tour of the Gigafactory with Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve and Councilman David Bobzien.

Apple also just announced plans to build a $1 billion data center in the Reno free trade zone.

Is there some Billionaire Burner version of Atlas Shrugged going on, Galt’s Goodell’s Gulch in the world’s hottest new tax haven? A utopian occult colony? A Monte Verita or Woodstock for the 21st Century? Or just “Esalen in the Desert”?

Whichever way you look at it, that’s a helluva lot of dots. I see connections between all of them. Others are pointing some of the dot-connections out too, including Burning Man Founders and the first-ever full time Burning Man beat reporter. YMMV; maybe we’re all wrong. Still, there are a few more dots to come yet in this post.

That recap of recent goings-on brings me to last week’s story from Outside Online (who previously did a must-read oral history of Burning Man called Hot Mess):

The Great Public Land Heist has Begun

Last week, the House committee on Natural Resources voted to adopt HR 3650, the summary of which reads:

“This bill directs the Department of Agriculture, through the Forest Service, to convey to a state up to 2 million acres of eligible portions of the National Forest System (NFS) in it that it elects to acquire through enactment by the state legislature of a bill meeting certain criteria. Portions of the NFS conveyed to a state shall be administered and managed primarily for timber production.”

It’s not just about timber. This sets the precedent for wilderness being sold to developers. Hillary Clinton has been accused of cashing in on this, as has Harry Reid. Donald Trump is opposed to it.

Why is private ownership of vast tracts of land you currently own bad? Well, it’s historically been demonstrated to reduce public access, and moves the land out of any unified, managed or regulated conservation program. Yes, there is a significant financial gain to be had by selling these lands, but that’s a one-off instance of profit from lands that currently contribute massively to local, state, and the national economy. The outdoor recreation industry alone, which relies on land access to exist, employs 6.1 million Americans and contributes $650 billion to the economy annually. The land where you and I currently go to camp, climb, cycle, hike, hunt, fish, and paddle is under threat. 

The Teddy Roosevelt Conservation Partnership—an organization of hunters and fishermen—called the bill an “overt attempt to undermine public land ownership.” Its president and CEO, Whit Fosburgh, went on to state, “Make no mistake, these are the first votes on legislation that would legitimize the wholesale transfer or sale of America’s public lands.”

In fact, the heist is so blatantly anti-American that even Donald Trump opposes it. “I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do,” Trump told Field & Stream. “I mean, are they going to sell if they get into a little bit of trouble? And I don’t think it’s something that should be sold. We have to be great stewards of this land. This is magnificent land.”


Federal lands, might get handed to the States and sold off to raise money? Hmmm, wonder if there are any possible connections between BMOrg and that?

Well, we have BLM Special Agent Dan Love, the head of security for the Federales at Burning Man, leading from the front lines in the Bundy Ranch stand-off with Cliven and his family. Harry Reid was forced to back down when his family connections to a Chinese solar plant planned in the area were exposed.

bundy cattle trespass solar

bundy cattle 2

Recently, though, the Bundy family got caught up in another stand-off with the BLM in Oregon at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge – this one linked to Uranium, the Clintons, and the Russians. It turned fatal when the Feds assassinated a patriot Lavoy Finicum before he could meet with a local Sheriff, Cliven turned himself in for arrest and is locked up without bail in Federal prison awaiting trial. About a week ago the BLM announced they were resuming their operations on the land.

Then we have Love again as the alleged main instigator of ChocoTacoGate. BMOrg pulled some big strings, bringing in former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in what the Washington Post called “a trippy alliance”. They hired Reid’s hand-picked former head of the BLM Bob Abbey to help smooth the waters with the many Government Agencies involved in Burning Man. Long-time BLM official Gene Seidlitz was moved out of the way. BMOrg fought the law, and BMOrg won.

I also noted last year the last-minute decision of the BLM to not allow access over one of their roads to Further Future 1. That land was also involved in a BLM land grab dispute, related to a nearby mine. From what I gather, there is a very large new gold mine quite close to Black Rock City and the Fly Ranch site.

Let’s recall too the ditching of local EMS provider Humboldt, for big commercial festival provider CrowdRX. Looks like they were in the right county for Burning Man (Humboldt), but the wrong one for the Burning Man Project (Washoe).

One last set of dots connected to all of this is in the form of Burning Man founder Will Roger Peterson. From his web site:


BORN 1948











Looks like he sits on several of the boards that would be making recommendations to government about what land is ripe for sale…

My gut instinct tells me, something big is afoot. Are we headed for the ultimate version of Brexit: the BURNEXIT? When the tech industry all vanish off the face of the map, and move to tax havens in the desert where they can take LSD every day for weeks to “increase productivity”? 

40 comments on “The Great Public Land Heist Has Begun – Are We Part Of It?

  1. Pingback: The Greatest Cultural Movement Of Our Time (Clean Version) | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  2. Pingback: The Greatest Cultural Movement of Our Time | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

  3. Wish I understood all of these. It just sound not good. Most people won’t even take the time to read it. It loses you right away.

  4. Pingback: BMOrg vs BLM: You Took Too Much | Burners.Me: Me, Burners and The Man

    • It just occurred to me that they structured their corporate reshuffle so that Decommodification, LLC gets $75k/year royalties for the use of the Burning Man brand. At the time, people thought this seemed cheap.

      But another way to look at it is they’ve established fair market value for their mark – for a week. Time 52, that’s $3.9 million. Lovely passive income stream for whoever the beneficiaries are of that LLC.

      And if they do more colonies, they get more money.

      Incidentally, last I heard Trump gets $5 million from each building with his name on it.

    • Yes I can see how you think it is insane of me to post links to mainstream media stories. They are all insane…so, by implication, am I, to think that anything in Bloomberg, New York Times, The Guardian, NPR, or the SF Chronicle had any credibility.

  5. Was this part satire? C’mon you’re putting us on, right Zos? Did you actually follow this story at all? That is a very generous version of reality to sad old Lavoy…

    ” It turned fatal when the Feds assassinated a patriot Lavoy Finicum before he could meet with a local Sheriff, Cliven turned himself in for arrest and is locked up without bail in Federal prison awaiting trial’

      • Law enforcement set up a roadblock, a car is speeding towards them, a car that is known to have sped away from other LEOs after being told to stop and with a person who has made threats to shoot LEOs if they attempt to arrest him. It’s entirely prudent that officers shoot at the vehicle as it’s speeding toward them. Once Lavoy got out of the car, it’s evident that he is not complying with officers’ demands and reaches into his jacket.

        I’m 100% on the side of LEOs on this one. And yes, I watched the cell phone video. I’m not missing any information here, I’m just coming to a different conclusion that you are.

        • Yep, exactly. Love ya, Zos, but you are way off on this one. FYI, you do realize that Lavoy was on the side of the people trying to steal public land? So his death is an odd inclusion if you are trying to make a point. And as JV puts it, his death is on him. Stop when the cops tell you to stop and get out alive.

        • There are a lot of holes in the official story. Most importantly, 2 bullet casings that can’t be accounted for, an FBI guy saying he fired twice and then saying he didn’t, and 4 other FBI agents lying for him. That’s not just me saying that:

          “The revelation is certain to inflame suspicions about Finicum’s death and shake confidence in the FBI, which came under intense fire for botched handling of violent sieges at Ruby Ridge in Idaho and Waco, Texas.

          Some supporters have claimed Finicum was shot while surrendering, that he was unarmed and that he was shot nine times. The sheriff in neighboring Grant County, Glenn Palmer, described the police operation as an “ambush.”


          The video I saw seemed to support the claim that he was shot from the front near the heart, when he moved his hand in reaction he was shot three times in the back. This may have been removed now, like most of the other evidence:

          Investigators had planned to release police reports, interview transcripts, photographs, the autopsy report and new video to allow the public to evaluate the police findings in Finicum’s death.

          But they ended up releasing only one video and 19 photographs, citing the new criminal investigation for the change in plans.


          More recently, a Grand Jury has been put together to consider an indictment of 4 FBI “hit team” officers.

          Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire. When police stories don’t fit the crime scene, there’s usually corruption and a cover-up involved.

  6. “Are we headed for the ultimate version of Brexit: the BURNEXIT? When the tech industry all vanish off the face of the map, and move to tax havens in the desert where they can take LSD every day for weeks to “increase productivity”? “

    Hey I agree with you on this one, mostly because lots of Silicon Valley libertarian ingrates like Peter Theil and Sergey Brin have explicitly stated in the recent past that they want to see a Randian tax haven utopia where they can tinker and make entire assloads of money unfettered by government regulation because they’re job-creators and doers and have somehow magically extricated themselves from any accountability, interdependency and obligation to their fellow humans based on the fallacy that what they do has no effect nor is affected by what you (well actually, not you, burnersxxx, sorry, you’re one of them) and I do. I don’t doubt the BMORG’s participation in this as it aligns with their explicitly stated plans to “spread Burner culture” by courting economic and political elites.

    • Heh – well, when the objective of their projects is to “disrupt” my lifestyle and that of those I love, you bet it affects me…and I don’t even really dislike the guys…but sometimes they’re just too full of shit.

    • “I don’t doubt the BMORG’s participation in this as it aligns with their explicitly stated plans to “spread Burner culture” by courting economic and political elites.”

      What is “Burner culture” and who is defining it? Has that secret been leaked? Or is it “coming soon?” (i.e., when they figure out how little they can say without obligating themselves or pissing off their SV oligarchs)

      • Oh I don’t know, and I wish the BMORG would not ever mention it again and simply focus on facilitating BRC.

          • That may be the operational definition if not their intent. The Borg imagine they have some secret magic as proved by their clear and consistent success in herding cats. I always wonder at their selective perception making them believe they inspire Burnt Man burners beyond their money enticements and capriciously applied restrictive rules.

            Can anyone post any postmortems on their “success” inspiring previous NV burns? How did that trade-show-booth-arcade thing work out?

          • Are you saying that Tesla and Google were the result of the Borg’s secret magic and inspiration as reflected in the wisdom of their post-sellout curation of which art cars can come to BRC and who gets to be part of their highly-structured arcade/plaza/whatever around the Man?

            Instead, I would observe that the unfettered pre-sellout creativity and spontaneity were where Tesla and Google came from (if that is your premise); or, the time machine they used to curate Tesla and Google deserves far more attention. Before the sellout – which includes all my Burning Man time – the Borg really had no impact on my BRC experience. The first several years our theme camps were ad-hoc and not official. Anyone/everyone came and we did our thing. That was the premise of the event, and what made it work for me. It was not Center Camp at all, and less so the art on the Playa; it was the people who were doing their thing in BRC. In fact, I did not know the Borg existed.

            Of course back then the Borg operated with an overhead of less than $1 million a year. Unless the budget for their time machine is well hidden in their recent IRS filings for their current $20 million overhead, they use that 20-times multiplier of annual paid activity to place a heavy hand on the event – a heavy hand that was not there when the event was the most creative.

          • I am saying they are two companies who used Burning Man to promote commercial products. They made Nebulous Entity for Google and Green Man for Elon.

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