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Government Relations     page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Burning Man Fights for Representation

The public hearing process for this effort began in the early winter of 2001, and the Burning Man Project will vigorously participate in this process as it unfolds to ensure that the new plan represents the interests of the broadest possible group of stakeholders. Ranchers, environmentalists, and public recreation users can yet work together to create communitarian solutions that protect the desert while not excluding people or threatening their livelihoods. This vision is achievable and worthy of the fight it will require. After all, this is exactly the sort of thing that Burning Man has been doing for years.

The new NCA's boundaries cross into districts overseen by two different Resource Advisory Committees. In the summer of 2001, a cross-district RAC subgroup was formed by the BLM. Burning Man didn't receive notification of the inception of this process and then missed a meeting of the group right after the event. Only in early November could Burning Man catch up with the activities of the RAC subgroup at a meeting in the tiny town of Cedarville, California.

Despite the fact that the "Recreation" representative was a long-time Burning Man participant, the RAC subgroup didn't have representation from Special Recreation Permitees (SRPs), not to mention the single largest user of the Black Rock Desert-Burning Man. An articulate plea to the committee brought some extended discussion on their part, resulting in one redundant member of the committee relinquishing his seat to the Burning Man representative.

Having got into the room, we now have a seat at the table. The RAC subgroup overseeing the NCA management and recreation plan now includes a representative from Burning Man, giving the community an equal voice and participation in the connectivity that happens when people negotiate their needs.

Permit Fee

Burning Man's efforts in working with BLM have suffered strain in recent years over issues regarding the permit fee. While the amount for "cost recovery" submitted to the BLM in 1998 and 1999 was about $67,000, this amount jumped to $489,000 in 2000.

The Project is based in San Francisco and therefore familiar with rent increases, but this startling increase exceeded any reasonable expectation. The agency had altered its fee structure options at the same time it doubled the per-person per-day fee that it charged for the event. The BLM claims to have spent over $600,000 to manage the event in 2000, and in 2001 it attempted to push certain costs back onto the Project. Only stubborn resistance prevented paying more than $20,000 extra on top of the $502,000 fee for 2001.

This battle will continue to be waged until fair treatment is offered. To learn the reasons for the choice to remain on public land and continue fighting these battles, read the AfterBurn Report Q&A

The Future

Efforts to present Burning Man as a powerful political force require an ongoing struggle for staff involved in government and public relations. Every year seems to bring some new kind of peril. Surviving in the desert is a challenge for participants. Surviving in the world of power politics is a greater challenge.

Sheer will has often fueled these efforts, and all involved are proud of the accomplishments. Once seen as pariahs by many, Project staff now regularly receive emails from businesses wanting to be mentioned in JRS and on the web site.

We are now well known to members of the local, county, and state governments. Through 2002 and beyond the fight will continue when it is necessary, while openness to friendship will remain the rule wherever possible. The Man will continue to burn!

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