Bureau of Land Managment

Federal Bureau of Land Management to Burning Man: Give Us Real Toilets, and Clean Them! Safety is All!

The federal agents who hold the festival's life in their hands demand to be gifted better accommodations.

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As I detailed way back in my February 2000 Reason cover story about the art and community festival that was born in anarchy and had to learn to adjust to government demands to survive, the Burning Man festival (held the week before Labor Day every year in Nevada's Black Rock desert) survives only by paying off and adjusting to the demands of the federal government that ostensibly "owns" the land the event is held on.

The Reno Gazette-Journal reports today on a new set of demands that the feds want to impose on the people whose ability to run their business/have their fun is alas ruled by the government. Highlights/lowlights:

U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials are asking Burning Man organizers to provide "excessive" comforts such as flushing toilets, washers and dryers, and vanity mirrors in a compound for high-level government officials staying in Black Rock City.

A Burning Man spokesman estimated the compound would cost the event more than $1 million, bringing its 2015 permit fees to about $5 million. The renderings of the compound obtained by the RGJ also show various accommodations set aside for VIP visitors but don't indicate who the visiting dignitaries will be.

The request, unprecedented in Burning Man's history, has turned into a point of contention as organizers negotiate with the agency for their annual permit to stage the event in the Black Rock Desert. No permit has been issued for this year's event, which runs Aug. 30 to Sept. 7. Typically permits are issued in early August.

Burning Man has refused to comply with the BLM's request, which the federal agency submitted on June 1…

Among the amenities included in the request are flushing toilets to be cleaned daily by Burning Man staff, a laundry with washers and dryers, on-demand hot water, air conditioning, vanity mirrors, refrigerators and couches. The event, known for its emphasis on self-reliance in harsh conditions, provides only basic amenities such as nonflushable portable toilets, for ticketed attendees…..

BLM officials contend that their staff can no longer stay in the "primitive" accommodations available in Gerlach, which is about 20 minutes from the event location.

"We're very concerned about where we put people that are part of our staff and that are part of the support and permitting," said BLM Winnemucca District Manager Gene Seidlitz.

"It's safe to say that if you were working 14 to 16 hours a day in white-out conditions on the hot playa, you don't want them to be unrested. Safety, security and health is paramount. That, I will not forgo."

A former BLM man who now works with Burning Man, Bob Abbey, says:

 BLM won't "change their strategy of threatening your permit until you agree to everything they are demanding including the latest BS proposal for providing VIP facilities for law enforcement and (Department of Interior) officials."…

Last year, Burning Man paid the BLM more than $4 million for the special recreation permit, which allows the event to have up to 70,000 people each year. The cost has gone up substantially over the past four years, despite the unchanged population cap.

In 2011, Burning Man paid $858,000; in 2012, $1.4 million and in 2013, $2.9 million.

This year, Burning Man expects the additional requirements alone to cost between $1 million and $1.2 million, which would bring total dues paid to the BLM to nearly $5 million, [Burning Man employee Jim] Graham said. Burning Man's special recreation permit is the largest in the country…

Reason on Burning Man.

My 2004 book This is Burning Man on the event's history and meaning–now available in a $4.99 Kindle-only 10th anniversary edition with a new afterword bringing the story to the present day.

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40 responses to “Federal Bureau of Land Management to Burning Man: Give Us Real Toilets, and Clean Them! Safety is All!

  1. U.S. Bureau of Land Management officials are asking Burning Man organizers to provide “excessive” comforts such as flushing toilets, washers and dryers, and vanity mirrors

    “That’s ‘excessive’? What is this, Spain in the ’30s?”

    1. For a festival in the middle of the desert? Yeah, it’s excessive. Why is it even their job to provide anything for the parasites?

      1. I borked up the blockquote but try reading it in Mallory Archer’s voice. That is how I picture the officials submitting their claim.

  2. VIP visitors to *Burning Man*?

    HAHAHAHAHAAAA!!

  3. You expect the King’s Men to live like peasants?

    1. Burning man could regain some respect if they just wouldn’t let them in.

      1. Larry Harvey didn’t become a millionaire by telling fedgov regulators to GTFO.

    2. Or even just movie stars? Laundry machines are unheard of, even for the top-dollar tourist camps selling spots for $30,000 apiece.

  4. Fuck dees guys.

    “We’re very concerned about where we put people that are part of our staff and that are part of the support and permitting,” said BLM Winnemucca District Manager Gene Seidlitz.

    “It’s safe to say that if you were working 14 to 16 hours a day in white-out conditions on the hot playa, you don’t want them to be unrested. Safety, security and health is paramount. That, I will not forgo.”

    Yeah, you’re a real hero. Fuck you and your permit staff.

    1. conditions on the hot playa

      Uh, let’s leave Playa Manhattan’s personal life outta this, mmmkay, Mister Seidlitz…IF THAT’S YOUR REAL NAME!

  5. I was mildly intrigued by burning man in the 90s. Now I consider it an act of counter-culture protest to not go.

    1. Oooooooo – meta!

      *flicks Bic?*

    2. I get what you are saying, but you should go at least once so you know what your forgoing in the interest of protest. There aren’t many very accurate representations of the event out there, so it’s hard for people to know what they’re missing, even if it isn’t their cup of tea in the end.

  6. It seems like what we need is a Max Yasgur of the Nevada desert.

    But of course, that would imply that there are other “owners” of the Nevada desert other than USGOV.

    Silly me.

  7. So, the burning (Hah!) question is:

    How many toilets, and designated how?

    Are we going to be all gender-fluid inclusive, and require all of them to share the same toilets?

    Or, are we going to be all protective of everyone’s feelz, and have men’s toilets, women’s toilets, M-to-F toilets, F-to-M toilets, etc? Can we really expect gay men to share toilets with straight men, who might be (probably are, I mean, geez, straight men) bigoted haters? What about lesbians? Shouldn’t they have their own toilets, too, or are women (on account of their uteri, I suppose) not bigoted?

    I suggest we convene a commission (at Burning Man’s expense), naturally. And, while they’re at it, what’s with Burning Man, anyway? Isn’t that name just a blatant micro-aggression. The commission can take up renaming Burning Man to something more inclusive.

    1. Those better be lo-flo toilets

  8. It’s like I always say, “Nothing ruins a good thing like success.”

    1. To anti-paraphrase Dumas.

  9. Looks like it’s time to find a new desert.

  10. You’d think ISIS would try to get a foothold there.

  11. Wonder if Grover Norquist will weigh in, since he’s already a Burning Man fan.

  12. This is insane. The whole festival is intended to be the creation of an enormous city that is returned to the desert when ended. Building a permanent facility for BLM run contrary to every single principle of the festival. These fuckers are outrageous. Is it really so hard for them to rent some fucking RVs? Sheesh.

  13. Finally, something I can safely not give a fuck about.

  14. The renderings of the compound obtained by the RGJ also show various accommodations set aside for VIP visitors but don’t indicate who the visiting dignitaries will be.

    Let’s not be coy. Their names are Michelle, Malia, and Sasha (right?) and a couple hundred of their closest friends, and a phalanx of heavily armed security personnel, in order to ensure they get the truly authentic Burning Man experience.

    1. That would be the worst.

  15. These people are way past wetting their beaks. The rate increases are based solely on FYTW and nothing else.

    1. Burning Man should seriously not have the event one year. Seriously. Pull the plug and see how it impacts the county’s budget for a year. The only way to make them back off is when it starts to hit their wallet. As long as they think that Burning Man is going to give in to any demand they will keep increasing those demands.

  16. When did Burning Man jump the shark? Prior to, or after, Doherty first wrote about it? I knew there was no point in attending when I learned they were selling tickets. Who the fuck buys a ticket to a celebration of anarchy?

    1. Obviously, when I started writing about it is when it was all over…..That said, it was never a “celebration of anarchy”–it just WAS an anarchy. Tickets were being sold by 1993, and a gate that you actually had to go through to enter was imposed by 1997. Tickers were sold because throwing it involved lots of expense and effort on the part of lots of people. Of course, that’s still true today and the ticket money doesn’t go to MOST of the people whose work and expense goes into making it a great experience….

  17. Who the fuck buys a ticket to a celebration of anarchy?

    You don’t even have to prove you’re an anarchist!

  18. Burning Man’s own staff does not have these sorts of accomodations. And many of them do work 14-16 hours a day in white out conditions. And many of them work for free.

    Yeah, it’s shit work, but they do it because they love the event, and they get a free ticket (and little else).

    If the government considers it so important to monitor the event and have personnel on-site, they should pay for those accomodations themselves. Burning Man is certainly not demanding that BLM representatives and LEOs show up.

    Nevermind that having a group of government officials living high off the hog with flush toilets and laundry rooms would offend just about all of the festivals atendees. People were pissed last year when “plug and play” theme camps were found to be selling luxury camping accomodations for $30,000 per person.

    Apparently, the BLM and the LEOs want their own personal plug-and-play luxury accomodations because it would be improper for them to have to live like a mere movie-star does at Burning Man.

    1. Yeah. It was bad enough back when it was just Washoe County Sheriff’s Department. a thousand BLM parasites are pretty lame.

      I took a several year’s hiatus from the event. When I came back, I knew the event had changed drastically when I got carded on the playa by a theme camp bar. *headshake*

      But, being part of running Thunderdome is still pretty awesome, so I keep going.

  19. Also, let’s be serious. I’ve seen pictures of LEOs posing with atendees in front of the art. I don’t doubt that getting the job of going to Burning Man for a week is a coveted position. They get to go for free, they get to drive around in “non-art” vehicles. I’m sure that when they are off shift they are dressing up like a sparkle pony and going out there to party. Does anyone seriously think the BLM officials in question are whining about how much it sucks to have to go to Burning Man?

  20. I might rent my Airstream to the BLM for a couple of weeks for $150k.

    1. For professional reasons I try to keep up on kink, but I have no idea what this means.

      1. Airstream is a towed RV. BLM is where you’ll find your kink…

  21. “The Reno Gazette-Journal reports today on a new set of demands that the feds want the people they are riding herd on in order to run their business/have their fun want to impose on the festival’s organizers.”

    Maybe it’s just me, but I had to read that sentence four or five times.

    1. That sentence was an awful mess, the result of an earlier and later version superimposed on each other, both of them too convoluted. It has since been replaced with a shorter and more understandable sentence.

  22. Cliven Bund ranch = Burning Man – hypocrisy
    Burning woman?mperson? Cis/trans?

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