Burning Man on Probation

Words by: Sean-Michael Yoder
Posted: 30/4/12 8:51

Burning Man on ProbationAccording to the Associated Press, the organizers of Burning Man appealed a decision last week handed down by the Federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to place the event on probation. The probation stems from the agency placing a cap on attendance in 2011, which caused the arts and music festival to sell-out for the first time in its two-decade history.

Federal agents claim that the festival “exceeding the crowd cap of 50,000 people and instead [had] over 53,000 on both September 2nd and 3rd last year” leading to the probation.

Gene Seidlitz, manager of the BLM's Winnemucca Field Office, near the festival site in remote northern Nevada, says that resources are already stretched thin for enforcement, sanitation, and other needs and that Burning Man simply isn’t living up to its end of the bargain for the privilege to have a giant on public land, which taxpayers ultimately have to pay for (actually it all sounds a bit like college to us).

If BM exceeds the attendance cap again this year it may be denied future permits at a time when they are under review for an expansion to 70,000 people over the course of the week long event over the next five years, but now with this and a huge ticket lottery snafu the organization seems to be fighting a new battle each week, a troublesome sign for any business.

There is also a sense that neighbors of the event, mostly ranchers and mineral rights holders, are growing more uneasy about the growing attendance of Burning Man and the impact on traffic, business, and the environment in the remote area.

The festival is also finding itself in the crosshairs of fiscally conservative politicians and freethinkers alike, who are becoming increasingly more disturbed by the so-called progressive BM’s multinational corporate tendencies of privatizing the gain at the expense of the environment while making public the loss, in this case, the clean up of the environmental degradation. These folks feel the taxpayers’ money could be better spent solving more pressing domestic issues.

While the BLM says that this probationary status won’t affect the issuing of this year’s event permit, as we look in to our crystal ball having already predicted the BLM troubles and the ticket lottery snafu, we’d say that Burning Man’s request to expand will be denied due to dwindling enforcement budgets in sparsely populated areas. This will lead to more attendance violations and an end to public dollars funding a giant party in the desert and an eventual end to the Black Rock City location. With other festivals such as the Symbiosis Festival positioning themselves as the alternative to the many angry non-ticket holders left out in the cold this year, the future doesn’t look all that promising if Burning Man is asked to leave its long time home.

This is one story we will continue to monitor, because if BM does get killed by the federal government, it will have sweeping and long term effects on public land usage that will not bode well for lovers of the freedom to gather and participate in just about anything on public lands.


Roberto Capuano
Politics Of Dancing
Ralph Lawson