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Agency Also Commends Organization for Environmental Responsibility

Washoe County Permits Still Under Negotiation;
2003 Burning Man Will Not Be Affected But Organization Forced to Consider Alternative Locations for Future Years

July 11, 2003 Reno, Nev. – The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has granted Black Rock City, LLC, a permit to produce the 2003 Burning Man arts event on the Black Rock Desert in Pershing County. The event will be held August 25-September 1 this year, in its traditional timeslot which includes the Labor Day weekend.

Environmental Responsibility
When issuing the permit, representatives from the Bureau commended the organizers and participants of Burning Man for their environmental responsibility. According to David Cooper, conservation area manager for the BLM, “Monitoring and inspections have shown that Burning Man has caused no known long-term adverse effects to public land and resources. This would be a remarkable record for any recreation permit, but is especially noteworthy in this instance since Burning Man is the largest special recreation event permitted anywhere by the Bureau of Land Management.”

The Burning Man organization has extensive year-round programs to ensure the conservation of the Black Rock Desert's unique biological, cultural, and historical resources. They have adopted the US Department of Agriculture’s Leave No Trace ethic and have created a group called Earth Guardians, who work in the desert on weekends throughout the year to assist the BLM and other desert users with clean-up and conservation efforts. The Earth Guardians also educate, inform, inspire and encourage the citizens of Black Rock City to apply the Leave No Trace Principles. All artists and those camping in “Theme Camps” during the event must submit clean-up proposals before their participation is allowed.

According to Will Roger, Chief of Staff of the Burning Man clean-up crews, “ We are particularly proud of the relationship that we have built with the BLM over the years. We completely respect each other’s contributions and work cooperatively to ensure that the Black Rock Desert is treated with the care and respect it deserves. ‘Leave No Trace’ remains our primary underlying principle, which is demonstrated year after year. Our conservation, protection, and clean up efforts are now the gold standard for other BLM permit-seekers.”

Washoe County Situation
The granting of the BLM permit comes amongst continued negotiation between Black Rock City LLC and Washoe County regarding the four special use permits the organization has applied for related to the staging area it owns and uses to prepare for and clean up after their event in the nearby Black Rock Desert. Black Rock City LLC filed a lawsuit against the county on June 2, 3003, seeking to recover millions of dollars in potential damages from the county as a result of its overturning the recommendation of the Washoe County Planning Commission and county staff in upholding an appeal of the organization’s permit applications. County Commissioner Bonnie Weber, who represents the district of Washoe County where the staging area is located, is calling a meeting of Burning Man organizers and the appellants to the permits to forge an agreement.According to Larry Harvey, founder and Director of the event, “Our dispute with the County will not affect this year's Burning Man event. It will occur as scheduled. However, it could affect our ability to stage Burning Man in future years. It is frustrating that we haven’t been able to build the kind of relationship with the County Commission that we have with the BLM and other governmental organizations that monitor our annual event. We are merely seeking to use our land in a responsible way. From day one, we have been willing to cooperate with our neighbors and County representatives to find solutions that work for everyone. The Special Use permits that were approved by the Washoe County Planning Commission addressed all of these issues in detail, and county planners argued forcibly on our behalf. We are now hopeful that negotiations and discussions with the five appellants of our permits and the Washoe County Commissioners will yield compromises. We give thousands annually in charitable contributions to the community of northern Washoe County. We have proven we're good neighbors.”

Flynn Mauthe, Gerlach, NV resident and director of the organization’s Nevada operations, notes, “We were working hand-in-hand with the Planning Commission to create a framework for our cleanup and improvement efforts, which resulted in our application for the four special use permits. This entailed planting trees, building fences that would have blended into the landscape and blocked the public view of our property, and many other enhancements to help us be an even better neighbor in the Hualapai Valley. We were quite surprised that the Commissioners have blocked our efforts to do so. We have received an award from the Federal government recognizing the success of our extraordinary clean up efforts at our event site in the Black Rock Desert. This five square-mile area is occupied by thousands of people. That we cannot be expected to clean and screen our small ranch in Hualapai Valley seems unreasonable. This is precisely what the provisions of the Special Use permits provided for.”

Adds Marian Goodell, head of communications and business affairs for the organization, “We consider Washoe County our home, and have created deep relationships with the local communities there over the thirteen years we have held the event on the Black Rock Desert. We enjoy widespread support among the citizens of local towns. This was indicated by petitions submitted to the Washoe County Commission. However, the current political climate is forcing us to consider other locations as options for the future.”

Burning Man organizers have had conversations with representatives from the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe and Esmeralda County to explore the possibility of eventually leaving Washoe County and relocating to their communities.

Burning Man Background
For thirteen years, the Black Rock Desert outside of Reno, Nevada, has been home to the increasingly popular and influential Burning Man event. The annual event, which began on a beach in San Francisco in 1986, has grown to attract 30,000 participants annually, from every state of the Union and twenty-two countries worldwide. Based on corporate accounting and participant survey data, the organization estimates that it contributes $10 million annually to Washoe County, including real estate taxes, vehicle and equipment rental, and the money that its participants spend on groceries, supplies and lodging on the way in and out of the event. The organization also contributes $579,000 annually to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) for land use for the area where it stages its event.

For more information please contact Tom Clark, KPS3, 775.686.2115