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.”