Pershing County Requests 50,000 Person Limit at Burning Man

reblogged from the Lovelock Review-Miner , story by Debra Reid News4Nevada

See also our coverage of the most recent Pershing County Sheriff’s report.

Ticket prices would skyrocket, the crowd would become ultra-elite, more sherpas, more MOOP…on the plus side, the queue for the Port-a-Loo would be shorter. Maybe it becomes “2 Burning Mans” like Coachella, with everybody going to Flysalen in between to chill at the hot springs…their permit reserves the area for them for much longer than the week 9-day long event. The area reserved is also much, much larger than the pentagon shaped trash fence that encloses Black Rock City.


County requests 50,000-person limit at Burning Man

Black Rock Rangers told to “filter” crime reports to law officers

Debra Reid, News4Nevada

Wednesday, August 8, 2018 12:00 AM

lovelock review-miner logoIn a letter last week to the Bureau of Land Management Winnemucca District, Pershing County District Attorney Bryce Shields recommended the BLM limit the total attendance at Burning Man to 50,000 people including ticket-holders, staff, volunteers, contractors and government officials.

The comment letter was submitted by Shields on behalf of the Pershing County Commission and the Pershing County District Attorney’s Office. The deadline for public comment on the BLM’s Burning Man Special Recreation Permit/Environmental Impact Statement was Friday.

The BLM is analyzing impacts of the event that is now allowed up to 70,000 ticket-holders plus paid and volunteer non-ticket holders who work the event. Burning Man organizers have applied for a Special Recreation Permit for the next 10 years and have requested the BLM allow them to sell more tickets meaning the total event attendance could eventually reach 100,000 people.

In his comment letter, Shields pointed out that, at its current size, the festival is already a serious drain on local resources including law enforcement, the jail, courts, roads and administrative services in Pershing County and beyond. He questioned if even the BLM could provide enough rangers to control the impacts of 100,000 participants and employees on public land resources.

“In terms of increasing the event’s size, it is doubtful that the Burning Man event can grow to 100,000 participants without increasing the number of federal and state law enforcement officers,” Shields states in the letter. “To ensure the safety of participants and law enforcement personnel, the Draft EIS should analyze the appropriate levels of staffing for federal and state law enforcement and the associated financial

burden to these agencies. As a practical matter, the analysis should include whether the Department of Interior is capable of staffing enough BLM Rangers at the event should it increase to 100,000 participants.”

Shields suggested the BLM also evaluate whether enough officers can be recruited from within the state by the Pershing County Sheriff Office to maintain public safety at the event if Burning Man continues to grow. Sheriff Jerry Allen has said that he and his staff have difficulty locating enough available law enforcement officers willing and able to help local deputies with the event.

Increased attendance means more crime and more demands on all of the county’s limited resources, Shields said. Each crime report must be investigated, evidence must be collected, suspects must be housed at the county jail and be given due process in court. An eight-day event soon turns into year-round work for law enforcement, county courts and administration.

“The volume of crimes (hundreds of misdemeanors and dozens of felonies) coupled with the impermanent infrastructure, short duration of the event, and transitory nature of most of the state law enforcement officers, renders report writing, record keeping and evidence intake a monumental task. This process strains law enforcement and prosecution resources for months after the event,” Shields states in the letter.

Shields said criminal activities at the festival may have not been reported to law enforcement officers at the request of Burning Man’s own security staff known as the Black Rock Rangers.

“Anecdotal information from state and federal law enforcement officers suggests that the BRR encourages event participants to avoid reporting incidents to law enforcement in favor of resolving matters “in house” with the BRR’s assistance,” Shields states in the letter. “Such stories from law enforcement seem to be credible because the 2018 Black Rock Ranger (BRR) Manual contains instructions to BRRs to ‘filter’ what is reported to law enforcement.”

According to Shields, the Black Rock Ranger Manual also contains a “legally inadequate definition” of “consent” for encounters such as sexual encounters.

“This woeful advice to the BRR suggests the ugly possibility that crimes at the event, including sexual assault, have been under reported to law enforcement officers in previous years,” he states in the comment letter. “In light of the possibility that crimes have gone unreported to law enforcement, the Draft EIS should evaluate what measures can be taken to ensure that crimes are accurately reported to law enforcement.”

Shields recommended the BLM investigate the screening process conducted by festival staff at the gates to the event. Gatekeepers search vehicles for people without tickets as well as illegal drugs and weapons but such contraband has been found by law enforcement inside the event.

“Is the current screening process adequate to prevent prohibited items (drugs, firearms, glitter, confetti, etc…) from entering the event?” Shields asks the BLM. “To say nothing of the copious amounts of controlled substances at the event, within the last two or three years, law enforcement officers have located firearms at the event. In one egregious case, officers discovered one AR-15 and one 9 mm handgun, along with thousands of rounds of ammunition for those weapons. In an effort to better protect participants, a more thorough screening process of vehicles and individuals should occur prior to entry.”

Shields questioned if there are adequate restrictions on minors inside the event where “adult” events occur. Rather than imposing a minimum age limit on the event, as county officials have suggested, the BLM has allowed parents to decide if their children should attend the event.

“Please include within the Draft EIS a study concerning Black Rock City’s zoning efforts in that regard,” he said in the letter. “How is the zoning enforced? How does Burning Man or the BLM ensure that minors at the event are there with the permission of their parents or guardians?”

As well as the event’s negative effects on county roads, a lesser known impact is on nearby public land users. In the letter, Shields said some of those people have had trouble accessing their private land, grazing allotments and other areas due to Burning Man roadblocks.

“Many ranchers and property owners near the Burning Man Event have expressed concerns that proposed road closures will deprive them of access to areas essential to their day-to-day business operations,” he states in the letter. “These individuals also report that, in previous years, when they have driven in close proximity to the borders of the event, they have been “hassled” by Black Rock Rangers and followed.”

Shields suggested that Burning Man or the BLM issue “visible vehicle placards” for those landowners, ranchers and other public land users who need access to areas near the event.

A lower attendance level would limit the overall impacts of Burning Man according to Shields.

“With these considerations in mind, we request that the BLM analyze the alternative of capping the event at 50,000 persons,” he wrote. “This number, of course, encompasses all attendees, including paid participants, volunteers, service providers, vendors, contractors and government personnel.”

5 comments on “Pershing County Requests 50,000 Person Limit at Burning Man

  1. The rangers are like rock med. their reason n for being is to deal with the situation, make sure everyone is safe, and NOT get law enforcement involved if possible.

  2. “These individuals also report that, in previous years, when they have driven in close proximity to the borders of the event, they have been “hassled” by Black Rock Rangers and followed.”

    We are not cops! LOL no, that’s not what they think. Everyone comes out of the woodwork to have the BRC Rangers’ backs whenever they’re accused of acting like cops. Oh, just a few bad apples every year. NO. The problem with these little cops is systemic, and has been going on for many years. They are walking egos dressed in khakis with the ‘Bad Boys’ song running through their heads.

    The same thing happens with gate crew, you can’t even suggest they steal shit without people jumping down your throat. Breaking News: Gate steals.

    • Just throw the shit out there and see how much sticks Tinker Bell. Fortunately your little broad brush slam will only be read by a few relatively disinterested readers – especially since you provide no specifics and you come off as someone with an axe to grind. As I’ve noted here before it would be foolish to suggest that the screening process for Rangers/DPW/Gate staff was perfect and that the occasional bad actor was nothing to worry about. They are. Such individual degrade the social capital that each group has built up over the years and it has always been to our collective benefit to purge our ranks of these bad actors whenever they pop their head up either before, during or after the event. But implicit in your post is the suggestion that all Rangers are bad actors. Assholes worthy of contempt. And that sucks. I believe our record stands on its own merits with multiple thousands of positive interactions with participants. Everything from helping the lost and disoriented to completely breaking down and packing an entire camp for a group who had a member die on playa. Your general suggestion to the contrary suggest serves no purpose other than to satisfy what ever petty, little grudge you feel compelled to get off your chest. That much I hope has been successful. Maybe now you might view the various groups with a tad more clarity and appreciation for doing a difficult and often thankless role that insures the continuation of the event.

      But again, to one of your points…Oddly enough, the request by Pershing attorney Bryce Shields in his letter complains the opposite of your accusations where he notes the following:

      “Shields said criminal activities at the festival may have not been reported to law enforcement officers at the request of Burning Man’s own security staff known as the Black Rock Rangers.

      “Anecdotal information from state and federal law enforcement officers suggests that the BRR encourages event participants to avoid reporting incidents to law enforcement in favor of resolving matters “in house” with the BRR’s assistance,” Shields states in the letter. “Such stories from law enforcement seem to be credible because the 2018 Black Rock Ranger (BRR) Manual contains instructions to BRRs to ‘filter’ what is reported to law enforcement.”

      Pershing County law enforcement and the BLM have known for well over a decade that the Black Rock Rangers (BRRs) are not nor have they ever been a presence that is present to either serve or augment the role of law enforcement. That has never been the case. That understanding has been integral to insuring that there’s an interface between the event and LEOs without being ‘LEO lite’. Our *only* obligations to report to law enforcement are when 1) there’s been an assault of any kind and on anyone 2) elder/spousal/child abuse 3) lost children 4) brandishing of weapons of any kind.

      Also noted is the suggestion that Gate, Rangers and other functioning groups should ‘work’ more closely with law enforcement. Suggestions include have Gate staff search for and report contraband drugs, Rangers should increase their vigilance insofar as reporting illegal activities among several points. The irony here is that what’s being suggested would in no way alleviate the core complaint that BLM and the Pershing Co are lodging. Namely, an acute shortage of staff personnel to carry out their ‘mission’ to serve and protect. Assuming collaboration by BM departments were to take place (And I’ll state categorically that they will NEVER take place) various LEO stakeholders would if anything be even more overwhelmed with reports of small, inconsequential violations (drinking in public? Really?, pissing behind an RV, are you fucking kidding me?). No, there will be no deputized BM volunteers to function and collaborate as a troupe of squealing Quislings to an already to out-of-control, due process denying army of jack boot cops.

      • Fine. I have no problem with you leaving gate crew to rummage through your belongings unattended. Because gate crew doesn’t have a thieving culture. You’re right. I’m wrong. Just a few bad apples, okay.

        However, you might want to show up to their camp the day after the gate opens and observe all the things they were “gifted” to them. You might find something you misplaced. They just found it laying around and brought it back to camp hoping the owner would show up.

        Next thing you’ll tell me is that DPW doesn’t steal and doesn’t assault participants. Being that gate crew is where DPW rejects get sent after stealing from, and assaulting too many participants – they become angels at the gate.

        Go back into the woodwork, Ray.

  3. Wow. They don’t have the jurisdiction to do that.
    I recommend BLM -not- try to do that.

    And it sounds like they are trying to make an excuse to bring in more funds and outside officers…..that doesn’t bode well.

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